(L-R) Taylor Kitsch, Jonathan Groff in HBO's "The Normal Heart"

(L-R) Taylor Kitsch, Jonathan Groff in HBO’s “The Normal Heart”

*President Barack Obama was so moved by the recent HBO movie “The Normal Heart” that he cold-called its writer-director Ryan Murphy to let him know. The gesture shows just how far this country has come from a time decades ago, when the Leader of the Free World refused to even acknowledge the disease that serves as the subject of the film – HIV-AIDS.

Set in early 80s New York City at the beginning of the crisis, “The Normal Heart” follows seven gay activists and their ally, Dr. Emma Brookner (Julia Roberts), as they struggle to expose the gravity of the burgeoning epidemic to a nation – and president – in complete denial.

“I really grew up in this period, and I really came of age in this period, and I lost a lot of friends to AIDS,” said Murphy, who is openly gay, to the TCA in January. “I’m married, and I have a child, and I feel like this movie really is a civil rights movie, and I feel like what those seven guys did and Emma did in that fight really paved the way for the life that I have today…”

ryan murphy

Executive Producer and Director Ryan Murphy attends the New York premiere of “The Normal Heart” at Ziegfeld Theater on May 12, 2014 in New York City

The film, adapted from Larry Kramer’s Tony-winning play, is said to have left a lasting impression on President Obama. According to Deadline.com’s Nellie Andreeva:

President Obama made a surprise call to Murphy on Monday (June 9) “to tell him that he loved the film and found it incredibly moving. The two know each other — Murphy hosted a major fundraiser for Obama at his house in 2012 — but I hear the writer-director had no idea Obama had seen his HBO film. …I hear Obama asked how the movie came together. …Murphy confirmed getting the call to Deadline, adding, ‘The whole movie is about Larry trying to get the attention of Washington and 30 years later, to get a call from the President is a full-circle moment.’”

Below, Murphy calls out President Reagan and New York’s former mayor Ed Koch for dropping the ball in the epidemic’s initial onset.

“The Normal Heart” premiered May 25 on HBO and is currently available on HBO-Go. Watch the trailer below.