No one expects to get through HBO’s adaptation of The Normal Heart, Larry Kramer’s semiautobiographical play about the rise of AIDS in New York in the early 1980s, without sobbing. But just listening to director Ryan Murphy describe Matt Bomer’s severe weight loss to play Felix Turner, a New York Times style writer whose body is decimated by the disease, will likely get you misty. HBO allowed Murphy to shut down production from July to November last year so Bomer could lose 40 pounds. “I literally think I burst into tears when I saw him, I was so worried for his health,” Murphy told Entertainment Weekly Radio. “I was so worried for his health, because he had taken it taken it to such a level. He was in a chair getting a haircut, and he could barely turn to greet me, he was so weak. But he carried the weight of all the ghosts of those people who had died. I remember he had a very big nude scene in the shower scene, where he had to basically collapse. And that was always the height of his thinness. And we’re like, ‘Okay, after this scene, you’re gonna be in clothes, so you can start to bulk up again hopefully….’ So to celebrate, he had a cracker. He threw up the cracker. His body had been so deprived for so long that he couldn’t hold any food.”
Listen to a clip of Murphy’s chat with EW Morning Live host Dalton Ross below. He also explains why Bomer and Mark Ruffalo, who plays Felix’s partner Ned, cried for 20 minutes after filming Bomer’s final scene.
The Normal Heart premieres May 25 at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.
For more on The Normal Heart, pick up the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly, on stands now.