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Taylor Kitsch Describes Intense 'Normal Heart' Shoots with Mark Ruffalo: LISTEN


Taylor Kitsch--the former Friday Night Lights heartthrob who burned up the screen to different, more tragic effect in HBO's recent film adaptation of The Normal Heart--appeared on Michelangelo Signorile's SiriusXM Progress to discuss the intensity of the filming process and his character, Bruce Niles.

In the film Niles, a mostly-closeted lawyer, is elected the first president of the Gay Men's Health Crisis, much to Ned's (Mark Ruffalo) chagrin. Kitsch talked at length about his scenes with Ruffalo and the intensity of their arguments.

HuffPost reports:

"I have a lot of intense scenes with Ruffalo in which he’s literally trying to make me come out on camera — which is devastating to Bruce. So in between takes we’d be like, ‘You know what, we no doubt have the same goal here, but our approach is incredibly different.’...There’s takes where both of us are crying just standing there. And then there’s takes where, just, I couldn’t be angrier. It was an incredible process to go through with Ruffalo."

Though Kitsch may have relished some scenes, he also commented on the emotionally draining difficulty of others, such as a memorable moment when he is forced to put his dead lover into trash bags and take him out back to a hospital alley.

“I think it kind of encompasses that insecurity in what people do or how they react to fear of the unknown,” he said, referring to a time of heightened media hysteria around AIDS. “And that happened, which is even scarier. Paying someone to put them in a garbage bag. It’s so inhumane on so many levels. It was just — that was the one scene I just wasn’t a big fan of doing a lot of takes of. And [director Ryan Murphy] knew that as well. And yeah, we didn’t do a lot of takes. We didn’t need many. It was something you kind of try to forget that is just scarred in your memory.”

Of course, many who are praising the film, including our own Nathaniel Rogers, appreciate it precisely because of unforgettable scenes like these. It has brought the visceral realities of the HIV/AIDS epidemic into the modern moment. 

You can still check out The Normal Heart on HBO GO

And listen to Kitsch discuss the film, AFTER THE JUMP...

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  1. I watched it and loved it. But it's definitely a film I can never EVER watch again. Bomer and Ruffalo better clear their mantles come Emmy time.

    Posted by: AJ | Jun 2, 2014 8:03:54 PM

  2. But are we supposed to be taking Kitsch seriously as an actor? Because he was mostly out of his depth with Kramer's material.

    Posted by: Jerry | Jun 2, 2014 8:47:55 PM

  3. Taylor Kitsch, a Canadian, has a new movie that just came out called, "The Grand Seduction". It was made in Canada, and don't let the title fool you - it's a very 'down-home' movie, the way they used to make them.

    Posted by: David From Canada | Jun 2, 2014 9:01:49 PM

  4. Am I the only person who thought this movie kind of sucked?

    It was like trying to force ground meat through a colander. Feel the emotion here, relate to the struggle over there, wait, wait, time to shed a tear, give it two seconds, now become furious that's what it was like back then!

    Maybe I'm just comparing it to Longtime Companion which hit the nail on every head just about with a last scene that made your heart have a permanent place in your throat.

    Posted by: Michael | Jun 2, 2014 9:16:09 PM

  5. You must keep in mind that "The Normal Heart" is an adaptation of a stage play, which by nature, is more theatrical than a movie.

    To compress many years of changing awareness and reaction to the AIDS crisis into a 2-hr performance, strong narratives and character confrontations were artfully used to advance the story.

    In my opinion, all of the actors did stellar work & the result conveyed the most authentic representation of that era. While "Longtime Companion" did deliver the most emotional ending I've ever seen, "The Normal Heart" was to me the defining movie of the best and worst period in my life.

    Posted by: JonnyNYNY2FLFL | Jun 2, 2014 10:11:11 PM

  6. Taylor Kitsch gave the best performance in the film.

    Posted by: THE QUEEN | Jun 2, 2014 10:33:26 PM

  7. Taylor was by far the weakest link, with Mark just behind him. He was so bizarre through most of the film and Mark was quite monotone when screaming his monologues. The rest of the cast was great though

    Posted by: Cory | Jun 2, 2014 11:02:45 PM

  8. It's a tremendous play, and I'm so lucky to have seen the revival on Broadway a few years ago. The film, like too many films of plays, was miscast in many places, in my humble opinion. Ellen Barkin was amazing on Broadway... I'll just leave the comparison at that. ;)

    Posted by: Pitt90 | Jun 2, 2014 11:30:38 PM

  9. It's funny how the gay media portrays gay men as being sick and dying of AIDS. It's as if the gay media loves the homophobic assumption.

    Posted by: petey | Jun 2, 2014 11:43:46 PM

  10. It's funny how petey, rick, jason, et al feigns ignorance of a period piece that portrays precisely what was happening at that time. Gay men were frequently sick and dying of AIDS. However, there is an entire new generation of young, gay men that truly don't know about the devastation of AIDS, that frequently take increasing risks under false assumptions that sero-sorting will some how keep them safe, that just accepting that a sexual partner is telling the truth or even knows his status is good enough.

    Posted by: Kenneth | Jun 3, 2014 12:03:51 AM

  11. overly aggressive overdub of some guy yelling the host's name.

    Posted by: snork | Jun 3, 2014 12:12:53 AM

  12. I've never really liked AIDS movies. It's not as bad as a few years ago, but for a while it seemed like more than half the gay movies were AIDS movies. Even if you carefully read the movie synopsis to avoid the subject, they still sometimes slipped it in. I'd rather see something escapist. Or, if it's going to be a downer, how about something related to gay oppression? We don't have to define our entire community and culture by AIDS.

    Posted by: Merv | Jun 3, 2014 1:12:09 AM

  13. I thought the movie was pretty descent. I loved the scene when Julia Roberts went off on that panel of doctors, and the scene between Mark Ruffalo and Matt Boomer in the hospital brought me to tears.

    Posted by: Frank | Jun 3, 2014 3:14:44 AM

  14. This is a fluff piece. There's no insight here about what makes the play special or anything. Just about any drama will feature "intense" scenes. I take from it that TK didn't really care much about the role.

    Posted by: anon | Jun 3, 2014 9:37:42 AM

  15. Full Disclosure: I played Mickey in a production of _The Normal Heart_ 10 years ago. For years after, random people would stop me on the street to say, "You were in that AIDS play, weren't you?" So I have certain expectations of what this piece means and can do.

    This didn't quite live up to it. I think part of the problem was the opening up. In the theatre, the mantra is always: Show, don't tell. That is, it is more powerful to actually show the action rather than talk about it. Don't say that so-and-so died off stage...have them die on stage. You connect to the audience much better that way.

    But part of the problem with theatre is that you don't have the ability to simply change sets and costumes in the blink of an eye as you do in film and thus, while you do everything you can to show, not tell, there are times where you just have to tell rather than show. And this is where the work of a good playwright comes into being along with a talented actor with good direction: They can take a monologue and make you see it. When done right, it's much like what Hitchcock knew: Don't show. A person's imagination is much more inventive than anything you can dream up.

    So when they moved this from stage to screen, they "opened up" the script. Scenes that were monologues of characters describing what happened were actually shot. And in this sense, I think it actually made it worse. The scene where Bruce is trying to get his lover home to Phoenix, the death, the degradation of the body, all of that is spoken as a monologue. It isn't shown.

    It was better in the play. The text was much more powerful. The part that seemed just as intense in the film was the mother's breakdown, but the rest of it seemed...just "less."

    Part of this is the atmosphere that can be created in a play. _The Normal Heart_ is a "small" play in that it works best in intimate settings where there is a close connection between actors and audience. You get to be much closer emotionally in observing people break down over situations that you have never had to experience.

    This can also bring in the claustrophobia of the closet, itself. By pulling people in, you evoke the conflicting attitudes of Bruce and Ned: Bruce who wants to open everything up to the world vs. Ned who doesn't have the luxury being seen. You can get that in a physical space.

    And Ruffalo's shouting just wasn't effective. Too breathy and without diction. _The Normal Heart_ can all too easily turn into two hours of people screaming at each other, so you have to pick your moments. I found it quite interesting that Mantello, who was Ned in the Broadway production but was playing Mickey in the movie, was the only one who didn't scream during the climax of his speech. Oh, he was passionate, but he was doing it through more than simply volume.

    I'm not saying it was bad. It just had so much more potential.

    Posted by: Rrhain | Jun 3, 2014 4:03:43 PM

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