Ryan Murphy looks back at the AIDS epidemic, Julia Roberts plays around with Meryl Streep, and Alejando Gonzalez Inarritu plots some revenge.
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30 Jan 2012 - 4:26 PM  UPDATED 5 Nov 2012 - 9:30 PM

Two of the most important and resonant responses to the spread of HIV and the subsequent rise of deaths in the gay community from AIDS have never made it to the movies. Randy Shilts' damning non-fiction study of the disease's early spread amid official apathy, And the Band Played On, was made into a HBO mini-series in 1993, while Larry Kramer's incendiary 1985 play, The Normal Heart, has stayed on the stage. The latter was prominently revived on Broadway last year, and that appears to have secured the work a screen adaptation.

Ryan Murphy, the television impresario (Glee, American Horror Story) whose filmmaking efforts have been somewhat patchy (Running With Scissors, Eat Pray Love), will direct a script written by Kramer. For the central role of Ned, a New York City writer and gay activist whose anger grows in the absence of organised research and health warnings, Murphy has cast Mark Ruffalo (The Kids Are All Right), while there are parts for Alec Baldwin (Ned's homophobic brother), Matt Bomer (Ned's boyfriend) and Julie Roberts (as the wheelchair-bound doctor who's one of the first to understand the looming crisis).

It will be the latter's second collaboration with Murphy, and Roberts continues to run an eclectic schedule. She plays a comically camp Evil Queen in Mirror Mirror, one of the forthcoming Snow White films, is still due to co-star with Meryl Streep in the adaptation of another key American play, Tracy Letts' August: Osage County, and will also produce and star in Second Act, a comedy about a woman who is forced to take a job after a lifetime of not working. She appears to be leaving the romantic comedies that made her the most commercially popular actress in Hollywood to the younger hopefuls hoping to succeed her.

Mexican filmmaker Alejando Gonzalez Inarritu has a short but compelling list of movies to his name: Amores Perros, 21 Grams, Babel, and Biutiful. His fifth film is now underway, with Inarritu directing a Mark L. Smith adaptation of Michael Punke's novel, The Revenent, an 1820s American frontier drama about a man on a hunting expedition mauled by a bear and then robbed and left for dead by the two men detailed to look after him. When the injured man survives revenge becomes his obsession. Inarritu, who draws outstanding performances from his actors, is talking to Leonardo DiCaprio for the part of the central protagonist, with Sean Penn, who featured in 21 Grams, as one of the pair that abandon him.

And, finally, more from The Casting Director's Best Friend (a.k.a. Steven Soderbergh): the prolific, possibly soon to retire, filmmaker is now populating the pharmaceutical thriller Side Effects. Blake Lively (The Town) plays the young wife who develops a prescription addiction on the eve of her husband, Channing Tatum (Stop-Loss), being released from jail and begins an affair with a lawyer to be portrayed by Jude Law (Contagion). The latest addition, as a doctor, is Catherine Zeta-Jones, who got some of her best reviews working for Soderbergh a decade ago as a drug baron's wife in Traffic.