“Larry Kramer, thank you for your anger and your passion and writing this story that changed so many lives,” the actor said in his acceptance speech.
Today, Bomer is remembering the late writer and AIDS activist as one of his heroes. “I, and countless others, owe our lives to Larry,” Bomer told Variety. “Without his tireless advocacy and his outspokenness and opposition to everything that was going on and encouraging people to educate themselves and be responsible for themselves, I, growing up in a semi-rural environment, wouldn’t have had any clue about the epidemic if it weren’t for him.”
Bomer said he first read Kramer’s writings when he was 14 or 15. “For me, it was the first time that someone really stood up and said, ‘You should be proud of who you are and you should be outspoken about who you are and you should be bold about who you are and passionate about who you are.’ He was a trailblazer and one of the most courageous people I’ve ever known.”
He would go on to meet Kramer for the first time when he was up for the role in “The Normal Heart.” They spent time together after attending a reading of Kramer’s writing. “I brought him cupcakes because I knew he liked sweets,” Bomer said. “I think part of getting to meet him and to know him was to see if he felt like I could play the role. I think he had to sign off on me.”
Kramer was on set for the first day of filming when Ned (Mark Ruffalo) goes to see Felix in his newsroom. “He was there for the very first shot,” Bomer recalled. “Obviously, it was very intimidating. I know I was nervous, but also really excited and so motivated. Getting to have a hero come to work and watch you on your first day of filming was beyond surreal for me.”
Kramer was in the audience when Bomer made his Broadway debut in “The Boys in the Band” in 2018. The two along with their husbands drove in a car to the after-party.
Bomer laughed while retelling a conversation he had with Kramer when the “Normal Heart” producers decided to go with HBO rather than try for a theatrical release with a film studio. “I said, ‘This is great news. You know, people are going to see it, it’s going to be marketed and it won’t just be in and out of the theater,’” Bomer recalled. “He said, ‘Yeah, but you won’t get an Oscar.’ I said, ‘Larry, that’s not why I want to do this. This story saved my life. This is about getting the most people to see the movie as possible.’ …I guess there was something about that that I think passed muster with him because he knew I wanted to be a part of that project for the right reasons.”
Bomer named Kramer as one of his three personal heroes who have died this year. “Boys in the Band” writer Mart Crowley passed away in March and “Love! Valour! Compassion! ” scribe Terrence McNally succumbed to the coronavirus less than two weeks later.
“It’s just too much,” Bomer said. “I’m an optimistic person, but 2020 can really just f–k off.”
Meanwhile, Murphy and Ruffalo paid tribute to Kramer on social media.
“I first met Larry Kramer in 2012,” Murphy posted along with photo of a young Kramer on Instagram. “The film rights to his groundbreaking play ‘The Normal Heart’ had become available, and I wanted them. We had a wonderful first meeting, he was kind and excited about my casting ideas — Mark Ruffalo and Julia Roberts (who would both go on to do the HBO film with us). From there we got into negotiations, and he said he wanted one million dollars for the rights. ‘Larry!’ I said, “That’s a lot of money for a low budget film!” He paused and said, “It’s what I’m worth.” I paid it. And I’m so glad I did. Larry knew the value of his work, his life, all gay people’s lives — and his fundamental stubborn belief in equality for all made him perhaps the single greatest and most important gay activist of all time.”
Ruffalo shared a pic of him kissing Kramer on the cheek on Twitter. “Dear Larry Kramer,” he wrote. “It was the greatest honor getting to work with you and spend time learning about organizing and activism. We lost a wonderful man and artist today. I will miss you. The world will miss you.”