And the Band Played On (1993): Roger Spottiswood Directs Randy Shilts AIDS Drama (LGBTQ–Gay)

Journalist Randy Shilts’ pioneering book about the early years of the AIDS crisis, And the Band Played On, was adapted for HBO TV in 1993 by Arnold Schulman (Oscar winner for “Dead Poets Society”).

And the Band Played On
And The Band Played On Film Poster.jpg

Promotional poster

As directed by Roger Spottiswood (better known for his big screen adventures), it was considered to be some sort of “an event,” a bold move to deal with an unpopular issue, then largely associated with homosexuals and homosexuality.

It was shown on September 11, 1993, a year that later saw mainstream Hollywood’s first gay movie, Philadelphia, by Jonathan Demme, for which Tom Hanks won his first Best Actor Oscar.

The tale begins in 1981, when the researchers detect a strange, mysterious disease that apparently affects only homosexual males in urban centers like New York and San Francisco.

Gay Directors, Gay Films? By Emanuel Levy (Columbia University Press, August 2015).

Working independently, and with hostility toward one another, an American and a French research team go on to identify the dreaded the virus as HIV and then AIDS.

The devastating effects of AIDS are depicted through the lives of a choreographer (Richard Gere) whose character is said to be based on the choreographer Michael Bennett (“A Chorus Line”), who died of AIDS.

The all-star cast includes opnely out actress Lily Tomlin as San Francisco health official Selma Dritz, Matthew Modine as Centers for Disease Control researcher Don Francis, Alan Alda as NIH official Robert Gallo, driven by his ruthless ambition to win the Nobel Prize, Ian McKellan as gay activist Bill Kraus.

Glenne Headley, Steve Martin, Swoosie Kurtz, Jack Laufer, Richard Jenkins, and Anjelica Huston are cast in cameo roles.

President Roland Reagan and Jerry Falwell play themselves through the insertion  of video documentation of the era.

Based on And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic
by Randy Shilts
Screenplay by Arnold Schulman
Directed by Roger Spottiswoode
Theme music composer Carter Burwell
Executive producers
Aaron Spelling
E. Duke Vincent

Sarah Pillsbury
Midge Sanford

Cinematography Paul Elliott
Editor Lois Freeman-Fox
Running time 141 minutes
Production companies
Spelling Entertainment
HBO Pictures

Distributor HBO
Budget $8 million
Original network HBO
Picture format Color
Audio format Dolby Stereo
Original release September 11, 1993

DVD on June 5, 2001.

Matthew Modine
Alan Alda
Ian McKellen
Lily Tomlin
Richard Gere