The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Matt Bomer says 'The Normal Heart' likely saved his life; hopes teens see film

  • Print

TORONTO - When Matt Bomer first read "The Normal Heart," he was a 14-year-old drama student in Texas who hadn't yet come to understand his own sexuality.

But he says the Larry Kramer play about the HIV/AIDS crisis in the early 1980s — and the homophobia and social injustice that defined the period — likely saved his life.

"It completely educated me and changed my worldview and lit a fire in me. An incredible amount of social injustice was going on and no one around me was doing anything about it or even talking about it," Bomer told The Canadian Press.

"Even though I was quite young and far from being in touch with my most authentic self, I related to the story and knew that on a bigger scale it was part of my story as well."

Bomer fought hard for a role in HBO Film's "The Normal Heart," airing Sunday on HBO. He plays Felix Turner, a closeted New York Times reporter who falls in love with fiery gay activist Ned Weeks (Mark Ruffalo) before contracting HIV/AIDS himself.

The film directed by "Glee" co-creator Ryan Murphy follows Weeks, the founder of an HIV/AIDS advocacy group, as he fights for the new "gay cancer" epidemic to be taken seriously. Taylor Kitsch and Jim Parsons take supporting turns as activists with different views on how to fight.

Bomer says the play saved his life because it "put the fear of God" in him as a teenager having his first sexual experiences with women.

"I knew the stakes were life and death, from reading this piece and responding to it. I think having that understanding as I grew up, and eventually within relationships with men, encouraged me to behave in a more responsible manner," he said.

Now, HIV/AIDS is no longer a death sentence in the developed world, and equal rights for LGBT people have come a long way. But Bomer says he hopes that the new film exposes the younger generation to the struggles of the past.

"It's very easy to take a lot of things that are happening now for granted, between NFL players being drafted to politicians and actors and musicians being out, and the fact that we can get married. So I hope that they'll watch this and realize that it's a big piece of why they have all those rights," he said.

"And, on a more positive note, just to realize that this is ultimately a story about love, and unconditional love, amid the most horrible and trying circumstances imaginable, a love that triumphs over a society that has no respect for it."

The 36-year-old known for his chiselled physique in "Magic Mike" and "White Collar" lost 40 lbs for the role during a five-month break in shooting, reportedly moving Murphy to tears when the frighteningly gaunt Bomer returned to set.

Bomer, who has three young sons with his husband, publicist Simon Halls, even lived alone for the final month as he lost the weight.

"I felt such a profound responsibility to this character and this story to be as truthful as possible and I wanted to have some kind of understanding of what Felix's life would be like at the time," he said.

"The real profound gift of getting to play this role is that even at my most physically fragile, I had such a profound respect and desire to live, and a will to live, and to get the most out of every day. That's what I wanted to bring to Felix, more than a 'woe is me' mentality."

Bomer said his husband was supportive, no matter how low his energy dipped, and his kids — all under the age of 10 — weren't frightened by his skeletal appearance.

"Kids are really resilient when you prepare them for something like this, and they see that you're still able to play Legos and talk about their day," he said. "I think our kids are so young their imaginations kicked into full gear and they thought maybe I was going to be as flat as a pancake. They were kind of non-plussed about it."

Bomer was in Toronto Friday for a screening of "The Normal Heart" at the Inside Out LGBT Film Festival. The film has garnered rave reviews, many of them praising Bomer's committed performance, ahead of its airing on Sunday.

"The Normal Heart" marks the first time Bomer has played a gay character in a film. Asked how Hollywood could improve when it comes to telling LGBT stories, he said he was surprised that so few movies have been made about the HIV/AIDS crisis.

"While there were a lot of documentaries and thankfully 'Dallas Buyer's Club' last year ... It's shocking to me how few movies have been made about the plague of a generation," he said.

"I hope they'll continue to tell our stories with integrity and authenticity, and broaden their horizons beyond stereotypes. And continue to tell stories about three-dimensional human beings who just happen to be gay."

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Body pulled from river is missing 15-year-old girl

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A Great Horned Owl that was caught up in some soccer nets in Shamrock Park in Southdale on November 16th was rehabilitated and returned to the the city park behind Shamrock School and released this afternoon. Sequence of the release. December 4, 2012  BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
  • A Canada goose makes takes flight on Wilkes Ave Friday afternoon- See Bryksa’s 30 Day goose a day challenge- Day 09- May 11, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

What do you think of the new Blue Bombers uniforms?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google