Production had to take a break to allow Matt Bomer time to lose 40 lbs for his physique to display that his character is dying of AIDS. Bomer admitted that the weight-loss took a toll on his health, and that by the time he filmed his final scene in a hospital bed he was genuinely too weak to get out of the bed between takes without assistance.
Matt Bomer was determined not to watch Philadelphia (1993) while working because he didn't want to be even slightly influenced by Tom Hanks's performance. Funnily enough, while he was having the month off to lose the weight the role required, he was at his New York apartment watching TV and Philadelphia showed up. He was so tired that decided to watch the movie.
On June 26, 2013, the day of filming the fund-raiser dance, Larry Kramer was in attendance. That became the day that DOMA was overturned, marking a momentous advancement for gay rights. As a celebration broke out, Larry Kramer grabbed the microphone and said "We did it!"
For the 2011 Broadway premiere of the play "The Normal Heart," the playwright Larry Kramer wrote a flyer called "Please Know" (which he often handed out to exiting audience members himself). "Please Know" explained that most of the events and characters in the play were based on real events and people. Some of the real people he said his characters were based on included: Paul Popham, one of the founders of the Gay Men's Health Crisis (the basis for Bruce); Dr. Linda Laubenstein, an early AIDS researcher (the basis for Emma); and Rodger McFarlane, creator of the crisis hotline that was the precursor to the GMHC and gay rights activist (the basis for Tommy). Like McFarlane, Tommy is a Southerner (McFarlane was born and raised in South Alabama). Like Laubenstein, Emma uses a wheelchair (Laubenstein was left paraplegic after a childhood bout with polio). Although this was not mentioned in Kramer's handout, the character of Felix also had a real-life inspiration: John Duka, who, during the early 1980s, wrote a column in the New York Times's Thursday Style section titled "Notes on Fashion." Duka had been openly gay while working at New York Magazine but, upon his move to the Times in 1980, he felt he needed to recloset himself because of the Times's then-more-conservative attitudes. Also like Felix, he also had a brief marriage to a woman. The character of Ned is based on Kramer himself.
Barbra Streisand held the film rights to Larry Kramer's original play for a decade, but was unable to get financing for a feature film, and HBO at the time was unwilling to meet Kramer's asking price for the screenplay.
When Tommy Boatwright (Jim Parsons) pulls a card from his Rolodex and puts it along with a bunch of cards tied with a rubber band, is based on what David Geffen used to do those days. On November 18th 1992, AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA) gave Geffen the Commitment To Life Award at the Universal Amphitheater. During his acceptance speech he said: "When the first person I knew died, I couldn't bring myself to throw his Rolodex card away, so I saved it. I now have a rubber band around 341 cards". David Geffen was referring to Michael Bennett.
The original off-Broadway production of "The Normal Heart" opened in April 1985 at the Joseph Papp Public Theater/LuEsther Hall. The cast included: Phillip Richard Allen (Ben Weeks); David Allen Brooks (Bruce Niles); Brad Davis (Ned Weeks); William DeAcutis (Tommy Boatwright); Robert Dorfman (Mickey Marcus; Lawrence Lott (David/Hiram Keebler/Examining Doctor/Orderly); D. W. Moffett (Felix Turner); Michael Santoro (Craig Donner/Grady/Orderly); and Concetta Tomei (Dr. Emma Brookner). The director was Michael Lindsay-Hogg.
During the film, one character refers to the London plague traced to a pump. The Great (Bubonic) Plague of London occurred in 1665-66 was caused by rats. The "pump"referenced caused the Cholera outbreak in 1854 in London.