Jim Parsons, Mark Ruffalo Celebrate the Premiere of 'The Normal Heart' in NYC

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Jim Parsons, Taylor Kitsch

Matt Bomer, Julia Roberts, Taylor Kitsch, Ryan Murphy, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie applauded the arrival of playwright Larry Kramer at the Ziegfield Theatre on Monday.

There was no shortage of craned necks and gaping mouths when Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt and Julie Roberts all whizzed by on the red carpet Monday night at HBO's premiere of The Normal Heart in New York City, but the most deafening buzz came when playwright Larry Kramer made his way through the throng.

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"Rightfully so, don't you think?" Matt Bomer told The Hollywood Reporter of the reaction to Kramer, who wrote the stage version of Normal Heart as well as the film's screenplay. "He is the heart of this story. He is the reason I have the rights I have today. We all owe him so much."

Bomer's co-star Mark Ruffalo also put the spotlight on the man who is credited with being one of the most influential AIDS activists in the 30-year history of the disease that has killed 36 million worldwide.

"The last time I saw him, he was very, very, very ill, and I didn't know that I was ever going to see him alive again," Ruffalo said. "It's very moving to see him tonight, standing there, looking so divine and healthy. We owe Larry Kramer a lot. He suffered for us a lot, and tonight is a real way of honoring him and saying thank you to him. I'm thrilled he's here with us."

Jim Parsons, who reprised the role he played in the stage version of Normal Heart, said this is probably the only time he will ever play the same role in two different mediums. In fact, if they ever make a stage version of The Big Bang Theory, he wants "someone really good-looking and athletic to play Sheldon – I'd like to see Tom Brady," he said.

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HBO programming president Michael Lombardo also shared that when he first saw the production at the Public Theatre in 1985, "I sat in the back of the theater and wept … That play unapologetically and powerfully brought to life all of the emotions swirling around the community confronted by AIDS."

The premiere, held at the Ziegfeld Theatre, was followed by an afterparty at the Four Seasons, where Pitt (an executive producer) and Jolie nuzzled and swapped family pictures with their tablemates before joining Normal Heart co-star Roberts and husband Danny Moder (the film's cinematographer) at their table.

And despite the somber tone of the film, director Ryan Murphy couldn't help but keep the mood light by firing off this zinger: "I was thinking, how is it that Charlton Heston has a stamp and [Kramer] doesn't?"

E-mail: Tatiana.Siegel@THR.com
Twitter: @TatianaSiegel27