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Angels in America (miniseries)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Angels in America
DVD cover
Based onAngels in America
by Tony Kushner
Written byTony Kushner
Directed byMike Nichols
Theme music composerThomas Newman
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of episodes6
ProducerCelia D. Costas
CinematographyStephen Goldblatt
Running time352 minutes
Production companies
Budget$60 million
Original release
ReleaseDecember 7 (2003-12-07) –
December 14, 2003 (2003-12-14)

Angels in America is a 2003 American HBO miniseries directed by Mike Nichols and based on the Pulitzer Prize–winning 1991 play of the same name by Tony Kushner. Set in 1985, the film revolves around six New Yorkers whose lives intersect. At its core, it is the fantastical story of Prior Walter, a gay man living with AIDS who is visited by an angel. The film explores a wide variety of themes, including Reagan era politics, the spreading AIDS epidemic, and a rapidly changing social and political climate.[1][2]

HBO broadcast the film in various formats: two three-hour chunks that correspond to Millennium Approaches and Perestroika, further divided into six one-hour "chapters" that roughly correspond to an act or two of each of these plays; the first three chapters ("Bad News", "In Vitro", and "The Messenger") were initially broadcast on December 7, 2003, to international acclaim, with the final three chapters ("Stop Moving!", "Beyond Nelly", and "Heaven, I'm in Heaven") following.

Angels in America was the most-watched made-for-cable film in 2003, and earned much critical acclaim and numerous accolades: at the 56th Primetime Emmy Awards, it became the first of only three programs in Emmy history (along with Schitt's Creek in 2020, and The Crown in 2021) to sweep every major eligible category, and won all four acting categories. It also won in all five eligible categories at the 61st Golden Globe Awards. In 2006, The Seattle Times listed the series among "Best of the filmed AIDS portrayals" on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of AIDS.[3]

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Millennium Approaches

It is 1985, Ronald Reagan is in the White House, and AIDS is causing mass death in the Americas. In Manhattan, Prior Walter tells Louis, his lover of four years, that he has AIDS; Louis, unable to handle it, leaves him. As disease and loneliness ravage Prior, guilt invades Louis. Joe Pitt, a Mormon and Republican attorney, is pushed by right-wing fixer Roy Cohn toward a job at the US Department of Justice. Both Pitt and Cohn are in the closet: Pitt out of shame and religious turmoil, Cohn to preserve his power and image. Pitt's wife Harper is strung out on Valium, causing her to hallucinate constantly (sometimes jointly with Prior during his fever dreams) and she longs to escape from her sexless marriage. An angel with ulterior motives commands Prior to become a prophet.


Prior is helped in his decision by Joe's mother, Hannah, and Belize, a close friend and drag queen. Joe leaves his wife and goes to live with Louis, but the relationship does not work out because of ideological differences. Roy is diagnosed with AIDS early on and, as his life comes to a close, he is haunted by the ghost of Ethel Rosenberg. As the film continues, the lost souls come together to create bonds of love, loss, and loneliness and, in the end, discover forgiveness and overcome abandonment.[4][5]



The soundtrack of the series by Thomas Newman was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Score Soundtrack Album for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media.[6]


Bethesda Fountain at the Bethesda Terrace in New York City's Central Park, where many scenes were shot
Below Bethesda Terrace, Central Park, where the final scene was shot

Cary Brokaw, executive producer of the series, worked for over ten years to bring the 1991 stage production to television, having first read it in 1989, before its first production. In 1993, Al Pacino committed to playing the role of Roy Cohn. In the meantime, a number of directors, including Robert Altman, were part of the project. Altman worked on the project in 1993 and 1994, before budget constraints forced him to move out, as few studios could risk producing two successive 150-minute movies at the cost of $40 million. Subsequently, Kushner tried squeezing the play into a feature film, at which he eventually failed, realizing there was "literally too much plot," and settling for the TV miniseries format. While Kushner continued adapting the play until the late 1990s, HBO Films stepped in as producer, allocating a budget of $60 million.[7]

Canopus of Hadrian's Villa, where the heaven sequence was shot

Brokaw gave Mike Nichols the script while he was working with him on Wit (2001) starring Emma Thompson, who also co-adapted the play of the same title. The principal cast, including Meryl Streep, Pacino, and Thompson, having recently worked with Nichols, was immediately assembled by him. Though Ben Shenkman had previously portrayed Louis in the San Francisco A.C.T.'s production (as well as portraying Roy Cohn in the NYU graduate acting program's workshop of Perestroika prior to its Broadway opening),[8] Jeffrey Wright was the only original cast member to appear in the Broadway version, having won the 1994 Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actor for his stage performance.[9] The shooting started in May 2002, and after a 137-day schedule, ended in January 2003. Filming was done primarily at Kaufman Astoria Studios, New York City, with several pivotal scenes being shot on the streets of the city and at Bethesda Fountain in Central Park. The Heaven sequence was shot at Hadrian's Villa, the Roman archaeological complex at Tivoli, Italy, dating early 2nd century.

Special effects in the series were by Richard Edlund (Star Wars trilogy), who created the two important Angel visitation sequences, as well as the opening sequence wherein the angel at the Bethesda Fountain opens its eyes in the end, signifying her "coming to life".[7] Costumer Martin Izquierdo was hired to design functioning wings for Thompson's Angel.[10]


Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gave the series a 92% "Certified Fresh" rating based on 24 reviews, with an average rating of 9.5/10. The critical consensus reads "In Angels of America, writer Tony Kushner and director Mike Nichols imaginatively and artistically deliver heavy, vital subject matter, colorfully imparted by a stellar cast."[11] The New York Times wrote that "Mike Nichols's television version is a work of art in itself."[12] According to a Boston Globe review, "director Mike Nichols, and a magnificent cast led by Meryl Streep have pulled a spellbinding and revelatory TV movie out of the Tony- and Pulitzer Prize-winning work" and that he "managed to make "Angels in America" thrive onscreen..."[13]

Awards and nominations

In 2004, Angels in America broke the record previously held by Roots for the most Emmys awarded to a miniseries in a single year by winning 11 awards from 21 nominations.[14] Angels in America became the first of only three programs (following by Schitt's Creek in comedy at the 72nd Emmy Awards and The Crown in drama at the 73rd Emmy Awards) to sweep every major category in Emmy history. It also joined Caesar's Hour, in 1957, as the only series to win all four main acting categories in one night.

Along with television miniseries Eleanor and Franklin, the series became one of the two most-honored programs in television history.[15] The record was broken four years later by John Adams at the 60th Primetime Emmy Awards, which won 13 trophies from 23 nominations.[16]

Accolades for Angels in America
Year Award Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
2003 Costume Designers Guild Awards Outstanding Period/Fantasy Television Series Ann Roth Nominated [17]
National Board of Review Awards Best Film Made for Cable TV Angels in America Won [18]
2004 AARP Movies for Grownups Awards Best TV Movie Won [20]
American Film Institute Awards Top 10 TV Programs of the Year Won [21]
American Society of Cinematographers Awards Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography in Movies of the Week, 
 Mini-Series or Pilot (Cable)
Stephen Goldblatt Nominated [22]
Art Directors Guild Awards Excellence in Production Design Award – Television Movie or Mini-Series Stuart Wurtzel, John Kasarda,
Stefano Maria Ortolani, Hinju Kim,
David Stein, and Tom Warren
Won [24]
Critics' Choice Awards Best Picture Made for Television Angels in America Won [25]
Directors Guild of America Awards Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Movies for Television Mike Nichols Won [26]
GLAAD Media Awards Outstanding Television Movie or Mini-Series Angels in America Won [27]
Golden Globe Awards Best Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television Won [28]
Best Actor – Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television Al Pacino Won
Best Actress – Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television Meryl Streep Won
Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television Ben Shenkman Nominated
Patrick Wilson Nominated
Jeffrey Wright Won
Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television Mary-Louise Parker Won
Humanitas Prize 90 Minute or Longer Network or Syndicated Television Tony Kushner Won [30]
Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Miniseries Cary Brokaw, Celia D. Costas,
Mike Haley, and Mike Nichols
Won [31]
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie Al Pacino Won
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie Meryl Streep Won
Emma Thompson Nominated
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie Justin Kirk Nominated
Ben Shenkman Nominated
Patrick Wilson Nominated
Jeffrey Wright Won
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie Mary-Louise Parker Won
Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic Special Mike Nichols Won
Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic Special Tony Kushner Won
Outstanding Art Direction for a Miniseries or Movie Stuart Wurtzel, John Kasarda, and
George DeTitta Jr.
Outstanding Casting for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special Juliet Taylor and Ellen Lewis Won
Outstanding Cinematography for a Miniseries or Movie Stephen Goldblatt (for "Perestroika") Nominated
Outstanding Costumes for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special Ann Roth, Michelle Matland, and
Donna Maloney (for "Perestroika")
Outstanding Hairstyling for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special David Brian Brown, Jasen Joseph Sica, and
Angel De Angelis
Outstanding Main Title Design Randall Balsmeyer, J. John Corbett,
Jim Rider, and Amit Sethi
Outstanding Makeup for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special (Non-Prosthetic) J. Roy Helland, Joseph A. Campayno,
John Caglione Jr., and Kelly Gleason
Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special John Bloom and Antonia Van Drimmelen
(for "Millennium Approaches")
Outstanding Single-Camera Sound Mixing for a Miniseries or a Movie Lee Dichter, Ron Bochar, and James Sabat
(for "Perestroika")
Outstanding Special Visual Effects for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special Richard Edlund, Ron Simonson,
Liz Ralston, Stefano Trivelli,
Don Greenberg, Lawrence Littleton,
Michele Moen, Steven Kirshoff, and
Gregory Jein
Producers Guild of America Awards Visionary Award Mike Nichols and Cary Brokaw Won [33]
Satellite Awards Best Miniseries Angels in America Won [34]
Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film Al Pacino Nominated
Best Actress – Miniseries or Television Film Meryl Streep Won
Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film Justin Kirk Won
Patrick Wilson Nominated
Jeffrey Wright Nominated
Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film Mary-Louise Parker Nominated
Emma Thompson Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie Al Pacino Won [35]
Justin Kirk Nominated
Jeffrey Wright Nominated
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie Meryl Streep Won
Mary-Louise Parker Nominated
Emma Thompson Nominated
Television Critics Association Awards Program of the Year Angels in America Won [36]
Outstanding Achievement in Movies, Miniseries and Specials Won
Individual Achievement in Drama Al Pacino Nominated
2005 Gracie Awards Outstanding Entertainment Program – Drama Special Angels in America Won [38]
Individual Achievement Award – Outstanding Female Lead in a Drama Special Meryl Streep Won
Grammy Awards Best Score Soundtrack Album for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media Music from the HBO Film: Angels in America
Thomas Newman
Nominated [39]
Producers Guild of America Awards David L. Wolper Award for Outstanding Producer of Long-Form Television Mike Nichols, Cary Brokaw,
Celia D. Costas, and Michael Haley
Won [40]
Writers Guild of America Awards Long Form – Adapted Tony Kushner – Based on his play Won [41]


  1. ^ Angels in America:Overview. The New York Times.
  2. ^ Bell, Chris (2006). "American AIDS Film". In Gerstner, David A. (ed.). Routledge International Encyclopedia of Queer Culture (1 ed.). Routledge. pp. 28–29. ISBN 9780415306515. Retrieved 2022-06-15.
  3. ^ An AIDS anniversary: 25 years in the arts Archived June 22, 2011, at the Wayback Machine The Seattle Times, June 25, 2006.
  4. ^ Part one Film4
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Further reading

External links

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