Julia Roberts Portrays Doctor with Polio in Upcoming Film

A few months ago, we put together a list of some of the best and worst pop culture characters in wheelchairs. We now have another to add to the list: Julia Roberts.

In an upcoming film debuting on HBO titled The Normal Heart, Roberts plays Dr. Emma Brookner based on real-life Doctor Linda Laubenstein.

The Normal Heart Premise

The film tackles a controversial issue, prior to modern wheelchair vans, of the late 70s and into the 1980s, when the onset of the HIV-AIDS crisis was taking place. It follows Ned Weeks, a first-hand witness of the mysterious disease, his lover, Felix, and AIDS Activists Bruce Niles and Tommy Boatwright.

Roberts’ character, Dr. Brookner, plays the role of the doctor who treats several of the earliest victims of HIV-AIDS. As a person with Polio, Brookner understands what it’s like to deal with an incurable disease. She’s determined to help, because she also knows first-hand what it’s like to be one of the last people to contract a disease before it’s cured for future generations.

Acting in a Wheelchair

In interviews for the upcoming film, Roberts has described this role as one of the most actor-y roles she’s ever had. Part of that was the intense rehearsals she had learning to be in a wheelchair. Initially she thought it would be easy and quiet, but she quickly learned that it’s quite tiring to not be bumping into walls and scraping your knuckles on things.

Another part was mimicking the Polio disease. She spent time studying how a person with Polio breathes, and even though it wouldn’t show on-screen, she wore lifts in her shoes to imitate another common symptom of Polio.

Roberts also didn’t quite understand the character’s inner turmoil. In fact, she even turned the role down several times. It wasn’t until she watched a documentary on Polio that she started to understand and connect to the character.

An Inside Peek

Below are a couple videos exploring the film a little more. The first is the trailer for The Normal Heart and the second is an interview with Julia Roberts about the film.

The Normal Heart premieres on HBO on this Sunday, May 25.

Do you think you will watch? If so, let us know what you think about Julia Robert’s role as a person with Polio!

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