Streisand acquired the rights to direct a film adaptation in the 1980s, and the project never came to fruition. "Glee" co-creator Ryan Murphy took "The Normal Heart" under his wing, and Kramer's award-winning work about the AIDS epidemic — starring Mark Ruffalo, Julia Roberts, Matt Bomer and Jim Parsons — will now premiere on HBO.
In an interview with the New York Times, Kramer, who attended the recent New York City screening of the film, said that the thought of two men having sex on screen was "very distasteful" to Streisand.
"I said [to Barbra Streisand], 'I really think it's important that after eons of watching men and women make love in the movies, it's time to see two men do so,'" Kramer told the Times. "I bought her a book of very beautiful art pictures of two men making love, and she found it very distasteful."
In response, Streisand released a statement saying her intention for the movie was "to promote the idea of everyone's right to love. Gay or straight!"
She added, "Larry was at the forefront of this battle and, God love him, he's still fighting. But there's no need to fight me by misrepresenting my feelings. As a filmmaker, I have always looked for new and exciting ways to do love scenes, whether they're about heterosexuals or homosexuals. It's a matter of taste, not gender." Kramer continued to point out that Murphy initially used his own money to buy the rights and believed it "tacky" of Streisand — who couldn't raise the money for the film — to not "think of something like that."
In April, Streisand gave The Hollywood Reporter a firsthand account of how the film fell through. She said, "I tried very hard to get it made, but when it became clear that we couldn't raise the money to do it as a film due to the controversial nature of the material, I thought, 'All right, we'll do it on TV.' At least it would reach a wide audience. But HBO would only pay Larry $250,000 for the rights, and he would not let it go forward for anything less than $1,000,000, and no company was willing to move on it."
She explained that — although the rights to the film reverted back to Kramer — she persisted in getting the project on its feet. Streisand initially asked Roberts, Ruffalo and Cooper, the current film's stars, to be a part of "The Normal Heart." In 2007, Kramer again asked Streisand to direct the film — with his screenplay — but she declined, stating that she could not have her "hands tied" if changes had to be made.
"In the press, Larry kept speaking out against me," she continued. "But I think it's unfair to keep blaming me for the movie not getting made. I worked on it for 25 years, without pay. Larry had the rights for the last 15 years and he couldn't get it made, either. Those are the facts.
"I will always believe in Larry's play and its powerful theme about everyone's right to love. It's been 28 years since I tried to get this piece made … so much has happened since. But I'm glad it's finally here."
The Times reports that Kramer is working on a "Normal Heart" sequel for Murphy. Read critics' reviews for the film here.