In 1990, Norman René’s heartbreaking “Longtime Companion” became the first film about AIDS to get a major release. This in itself is pretty astonishing given by the time was released, the AIDS crisis was about to enter its second decade and had already claimed the lives of over 120,000 people in America alone.
“Longtime” would end up grossing $4.6 million a $3 million budget (strong numbers for 1990 — and would translate to a nearly $10 million gross today), and earn multiple awards including an Oscar nomination for Bruce Davidson. And deservedly so. It remains a sensitive, thoughtful film about friendship and loyalty and courage and was a worthy first attempt at chronicling the AIDS epidemic through film (it’s often overshadowed by its inferior 1993 counterpart “Philadelphia” — which got considerably more attention).
Here’s the thing though: It’s really hard to find “Longtime Companion” these days… It’s currently not available on streaming platforms, and the DVD is out of print. But Yahoo Movies is vouching for that to change with this look back at the film for its 25th anniversary. Looking back with the cast and crew about the film, you can read the whole thing here and check out some choice quotes below. It’s a viable alternative until the film gets the streaming service treatment it deserves (we’re looking at you, MGM).
Craig Lucas on director Norman René: “I was just so angry that he was sick, while Tim [Melester] was also sick, and Pete [Evans] was sick. Another one of the actors, who had a large role that ended up getting cut significantly, was also sick. [Brad O’Hare, who played a waiter in the film, died in 1994.] We were together every day, and we were taking our experience and putting it into the film and trying not to be hysterics. But it took a great deal of concentration and focus to not be in a persistent panic.”
Mark Lamos (actor, Sean): You suspected it about everybody. You thought, “Well, is he gaining a little weight because he’s on some kind of drugs? Or is he losing weight because he wants to be thinner?” You just didn’t know. And you couldn’t say, “Hey are you feeling OK, are you sick, do you have it?” You couldn’t do that.
Lindsay Law (executive producer) on Norman René’s HIV status: They knew not to tell me, because of course you have to get insurance on movies. I was the last person they told, because then the project might not have happen.
Lindsay Law: [We scheduled] a buzz screening in New York, where we said, “OK, we’ve got to invite everybody who has a mouth: well-known hairdressers, people in the media, people on news bureaus, and lots of gay people who are in positions of power.” Just to get them talking about it, hoping that they could pry loose something. And I introduced it by basically saying, “Listen if you like this, don’t keep it to yourself.”