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HBO Delays ‘Band Played On’ Project

TIMES STAFF WRITER

HBO has postponed production of a three-hour TV movie based on “And the Band Played On,” Randy Shilts’ 1987 landmark book about the AIDS crisis in America.

Filming was to have begun in Atlanta Oct. 22, and HBO had been planning to show it next spring with the same kind of major promotion campaign that the pay-cable company accorded last season’s “The Josephine Baker Story.”

But “Band’s” production office was shut down this week. Robert Cooper, senior vice president for HBO Pictures, said Friday that his best guess is that it would go before the cameras in January.

“One thing is sure: We’ll make this movie,” he said.

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Director Joel Schumacher said that he asked that the movie be postponed at a meeting with HBO officials at executive producer Aaron Spelling’s house last Tuesday because he was uncomfortable with portions of Arnold Schulman’s script.

“In the well-intentioned efforts to dramatize this (story), we have veered from journalism toward fiction, and I think that this would be an immoral, irresponsible way to present the material,” said Schumacher, who directed “Flatliners” and “Dying Young.”

Schumacher declined to delineate what he found objectionable. Schulman, whose screen credits include “Tucker” and the adaptation of “A Chorus Line,” could not be reached for comment.

Shilts said Friday that the delay is “apparently not a big disaster. They were going to start filming Oct. 22 and he (Schumacher) wants some changes, and they all sound (OK). It’s not so much inaccuracies as they had fictionalized stuff. Most of what they had fictionalized was more for dramatic purposes.”

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Cooper cited other reasons for the delay. Neither the cast nor the budget has been set, he noted.

Shilts’ book has had a rocky career on its path to TV. It languished at NBC for two years until the network dropped its option in October, 1989. It has been in development at HBO for almost as long.


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