Released in 1989, Longtime Companion is a collection of vignettes and shorts that portray the challenges of the AIDS epidemic, which was once assumed to affect only the homosexual population. Norman René, who was infected with AIDS himself, directs a series of stories used to evoke emotion and portray the heartfelt, and often chilling reality of the disease. As the film progresses, the stories evolve to keep pace with the country’s understanding of the disease. Each of the characters experiences the disease in their own way, presenting a moving story and a multi-faceted vantage point over this terrible and misunderstood disease.
Director Norman René was born in Rhode Island in the early 1950s. After studying psychology at Johns Hopkins University, René opted to change his course of study and embarked for Pittsburgh to attend Carnegie Mellon University. Discovering his love for directing, René spent three years running the Red Barn Theatre in Pittsburgh before he and three fellow CMU alumni fled for New York to found their own production company.
In 1979, René met Craig Lucas and formed a professional partnership that became a winning collaboration. The two men wrote and directed some of their best films together, picking up film festival awards along the journey.
René continued to direct into the 1990’s, working with big name actors such as Alec Baldwin, Mia Farrow, and Meg Ryan. In 1996, however, René passed away due to complications from AIDS.
Norman René began his career by founding an off-off-Broadway production company in New York City. Honing his writing and directing skills, the young René served as artistic director on a variety of projects involving talented actors such as Julie Hagerty and Treat Williams.
Working with Craig Lucas, René wrote and directed plenty of successful plays throughout the 1980’s, including Marry Me a Little, Missing Persons, Blue Window, Three Postcards, and Reckless. The René-Lucas collaboration culminated with the duo’s greatest success, Prelude to a Kiss, which garnered praise on stage and on screen. In 1995, René brought another play to film, Reckless, starring Mia Farrow and Mary-Louise Parker. Tragically, this proved to be his final project.