Release dateSeptember 11, 1993 (1993-09-11) Based onAnd the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic
by Randy Shilts WriterRandy Shilts (book), Arnold Schulman (teleplay) CastMatthew Modine (Dr. Don Francis), Alan Alda (Dr. Robert Gallo), Patrick Bauchau (Dr. Luc Montagnier), Anjelica Huston (Dr. Betsy Reisz), Richard Gere (The Choreographer), Steve Martin (The Brother) Similar moviesPhiladelphia, Love! Valour! Compassion!, Longtime Companion, It's My Party, Pedro, Parting Glances
And the Band Played On is a 1993 American television film docudrama directed by Roger Spottiswoode. The teleplay by Arnold Schulman is based on the best-selling 1987 non-fiction book And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic by Randy Shilts.
The film premiered at the Montreal World Film Festival before being broadcast by HBO on September 11, 1993. It later was released in the United Kingdom, Canada, Spain, Germany, Argentina, Austria, Italy, Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Denmark, New Zealand, and Australia. The HBO movie was later aired on NBC in 1994. NBC (as well as ABC) were some of the networks considered to make a mini-series based on the book in the late 80's, but the networks turned it down because they could not find a way to structure it as a two night, four hour miniseries. In 1994, NBC finally aired the HBO movie with a parental discretion warning due to its sensitive subject.
In a prologue set in 1976, American epidemiologist Don Francis arrives in a village on the banks of the Ebola River in Zaire and discovers many of the residents and the doctor working with them have died from a mysterious illness later identified as Ebola hemorrhagic fever. It is his first exposure to such an epidemic, and the images of the dead he helps cremate will haunt him when he later becomes involved with HIV/AIDS research at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In 1981, Francis becomes aware of a growing number of deaths from unexplained sources among gay men in Los Angeles, New York City and San Francisco, and is prompted to begin an in-depth investigation of the possible causes. Working with no money, limited space, and outdated equipment, he comes in contact with politicians, numerous members of the medical community (many of whom resent his involvement because of their personal agendas), and gay activists. Of the latter, some such as Bill Kraus support him, while others express resentment at what they see as unwanted interference in their lifestyles, especially in his attempts to close the local bathhouses. One day, when exercising at a local gym, Kraus notices a spot at the base of his leg, worrying that it might be Kaposi's sarcoma. After a series of blood tests, Kraus is horrified that his worst fears have been confirmed when he learns that he has been diagnosed with AIDS. While Francis pursues his theory that AIDS is caused by a sexually transmitted virus on the model of feline leukemia, he finds his efforts are stonewalled by the CDC, which is unwilling to prove the disease is transmitted through blood, and competing French and American scientists, particularly Dr. Robert Gallo. These medical researchers squabble about who should receive credit for discovering the virus. Meanwhile, the death toll climbs rapidly.
Matthew Modine as Dr. Don Francis, an epidemiologist, HIV/AIDS researcher, and one of the first scientists to suggest that AIDS was caused by an infectious agent
Alan Alda as Dr. Robert Gallo, a biomedical researcher and one of the discoverers of HIV as the infectious agent responsible for AIDS
Ian McKellen as Bill Kraus, a gay rights and AIDS activist and congressional aide
Glenne Headly as Dr. Mary Guinan, an investigator of the HIV/AIDS epidemic for the CDC
Richard Masur as Dr. William Darrow, one of the discoverers of HIV as the virus that causes AIDS
Saul Rubinek as Dr. James Curran, an investigator of the HIV/AIDS epidemic for the CDC
Lily Tomlin as Dr. Selma Dritz, a physician and epidemiologist
Jeffrey Nordling as Gaëtan Dugas, a Canadian flight attendant who was an early AIDS patient
Donal Logue as Bobbi Campbell, an AIDS activist
B. D. Wong as Kico Govantes, a San Francisco artist and Bill Kraus' lover
Patrick Bauchau as Dr. Luc Montagnier, a French virologist and one of the discoverers of HIV
Nathalie Baye as Dr. Françoise Barre
Phil Collins as Eddie Papasano, a San Francisco bathhouse owner
Steve Martin as a Brother of an AIDS patient
Richard Gere as a Choreographer who learns he has AIDS
David Marshall Grant as Dennis Seeley
Ronald Guttman as Dr. Jean-Claude Chermann, a French virologist and manager of the research team that discovered HIV
Anjelica Huston as Dr. Betsy Reisz
Ken Jenkins as Dr. Dennis Donohue, an HIV researcher
Richard Jenkins as Dr. Marcus Conant, a dermatologist and one of the first physicians to diagnose and treat AIDS
Tchéky Karyo as Dr. Willy Rozenbaum, a French physician and one of the discoverers of HIV
Peter McRobbie as Dr. Max Essex, one of the first to suspect that a retrovirus was the cause of AIDS and to determine that HIV could be transmitted through blood
Charles Martin Smith as Dr. Harold Jaffe, an investigator of the HIV/AIDS epidemic for the CDC
Christian Clemenson as Dr. Dale Lawrence, a member of the CDC's Task Force on Kaposi's sarcoma and Opportunistic Infections
Stephen Spinella as Brandy Alexander
David Clennon as Mr. Johnstone
Swoosie Kurtz as Mrs. Johnstone, an AIDS patient
Lawrence Monoson as Chip
The film closes with footage of a candlelight vigil and march in San Francisco, followed by a montage of images of numerous celebrities who have died of AIDS or involved with HIV/AIDS education and research, accompanied by Elton John singing his "The Last Song." The montage includes:
Most reviewers agreed that the filmmakers had a daunting task in adapting Shilts's massive, fact-filled text into a dramatically coherent film. Many critics praised the results. Film review website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a 100% "Fresh" rating based on eight reviews.
Tony Scott of Variety stated that "if there are lapses, director Spottiswoode's engrossing, powerful work still accomplishes its mission: Shilts's book, with all its shock, sorrow and anger, has been transferred decisively to the screen."
John O'Connor of The New York Times agreed that the adaptation "adds up to tough and uncommonly courageous television. Excessive tinkering has left the pacing of the film sluggish in spots, but the story is never less than compelling."
Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly graded the film B+ and called it an "intriguing, sometimes awkward, always earnest combination of docudrama, medical melodrama, and mystery story. The stars lend warmth to a movie necessarily preoccupied with cold research and politics, and they lend prestige: The movie must be important, since actors of this stature agreed to appear. The result of the stars' generosity, however, works against the movie by halting the flow of the drama every time a familiar face pops up on screen. The emotions and agony involved in this subject give Band an irresistible power, yet the movie's rhythm is choppy and the dialogue frequently stiff and clichéd. The best compliment one can pay this TV movie is to say that unlike so many fact-based films, it does not exploit or diminish the tragedy of its subject."
In a review from Time Out New York, the writing team thought "so keen were the makers of this adaptation of Randy Shilts's best-seller to bombard us with the facts and figures of the history of AIDS that they forgot to offer a properly dramatic human framework to make us care fully about the characters." The review also says that the multiple issues the film attempts to cover "make for a disjointed, clichéd narrative."
Richard Zoglin of TIME wrote "Shilts's prodigiously researched 600-page book has been boiled down to a fact-filled, dramatically coherent, occasionally moving 2 hours and 20 minutes. At a time when most made-for-TV movies have gone tabloid crazy, here is a rare one that tackles a big subject, raises the right issues, fights the good fight."
The team from Channel 4 believed the film "is stifled by good intentions and a distractingly generous cast of stars in leads and cameos."
Primetime Emmy Awards
Outstanding Made for Television Movie (won)
Outstanding Casting for a Miniseries or Special (won)
Outstanding Editing for a Miniseries or Special — Single-Camera Production (won)
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Special (Matthew Modine) (nominated)
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Special (Alan Alda) (nominated)
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Special (Richard Gere) (nominated)
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Special (Ian McKellen) (nominated)
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Special (Swoosie Kurtz) (nominated)
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Special (Lily Tomlin) (nominated)
Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries or Special (Roger Spottiswoode) (nominated)
Outstanding Writing in a Miniseries or Special (nominated)
Outstanding Makeup for a Miniseries or Special (nominated)
Outstanding Hairstyling for a Miniseries or Special (nominated)
Outstanding Art Direction for a Miniseries or Special (nominated)
Golden Globe Awards
Best Miniseries or Television Film (nominated)
Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film (Matthew Modine) (nominated)
Best Movie or Miniseries (nominee)
Best Supporting Actor in a Movie or Miniseries (Ian McKellen) (won)
Best Supporting Actor in a Movie or Miniseries (Richard Gere) (nominated)
Best Supporting Actor in a Movie or Miniseries (Lawrence Monoson) (nominated)
Best Supporting Actress in a Movie or Miniseries (Swoosie Kurtz) (nominated)
Best Supporting Actress in a Movie or Miniseries (Lily Tomlin) (nominated)
Best Make-Up (nominee)
Humanitas Prize (Arnold Schulman) (won)
GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding TV Movie (won)
Montreal World Film Festival Special Grand Prize of the Jury (Roger Spottiswoode) (won)
Casting Society of America Artios Award for Best Casting for TV Movie of the Week (won)
American Cinema Editors Eddie Award for Best Edited Motion Picture for Non-Commercial Television (won)