Throughout filming, the set of The Normal Heart resonated with a sense of duty. But Mark Ruffalo, who plays Ned Weeks—Felix Turner's loving partner and Kramer's fierce, fictional proxy—recognized that Bomer's performance came from a uniquely primal place. "Matt goes the farthest distance, as far as the turn he makes in the movie, and it's significant," Ruffalo says. "We all understand what this movie means and where it fits culturally—the significance of it. And Matt understands it at an even deeper level, being one of the most celebrated actors to be openly gay. There's an urgency he had in relation to the material. It was like life or death."

Standing up and brushing himself off, Bomer shakes his head as if in disbelief, having come to terms only recently with the magnitude of what he's accomplished. This success had been a long time in the making for Bomer, more than 20 years since he'd first picked up the book after school in the drama room of his suburban Texas high school, and despite the toll the work has taken on him, he is determined not to let up. "Getting up here takes you out of the close-up and into the wider shot," he says. "We'll go as high as you like."

• • •

"We'll go there," Bomer says, "and then we'll go there." We've arrived at an intersection with two equally appetizing taco trucks, and Bomer, physically starved but artistically satiated, has decided to sample both. We sit down in a squat freestanding garage beside the Tacos El Gallito truck. Bomer slides into a tattered vinyl booth, squeezes lime over his carne asada, and takes an eager bite while considering future prospects. He's been up into the hills today. He's seen the view, the distance, the possibilities. Many in Hollywood believe they are boundless. "The true reveal of Matt is still to come, in terms of just how big he can be," Bonnie Hammer says. "But we have a movie star on our hands. A true movie star."

And yet Bomer sounds increasingly grounded. "I don't care about the size of the roles," he says, "or how they're marketed or billed or anything like that. I would love to be a part of stories that tell us about where we've come from, where we are, where we're going—with great directors." Polite in a way that could also be read as politic, Bomer, who once nearly dropped acting to pursue a career in psychology, refuses to name those directors. "It's such a long list," he says. "I mean, I hate to even identify certain people, because I don't want anyone to feel alienated. I want to work with anyone who's passionate about telling a story. I obviously have a list of people I really love, but it's a really long list. So I can't single anybody out. You know, you don't want to forget to say 'Darren Aronofsky' and then have him happen to see something here and be like, 'Why didn't that asshole say me?'"

Aside from The Normal Heart, which is already generating awards-season buzz for both Bomer and Ruffalo, and the final season of White Collar, Bomer has filmed an upcoming movie, Space Station 76, which he calls "a darkly comedic John Cheever story set in space." He was also cast as the lead in a biopic about the talented but tragic actor Montgomery Clift. "I could see it as a cable movie," Bomer says. "But they're still exploring the idea of doing it for theaters."

Having earned some time now to think and assess, Bomer's talking like he's found his way, no clairvoyants required. An unwavering hunger and adaptability have given him faith in his direction, and he's preparing to enjoy the rewards. "Listen," Bomer says as we stand to make our way to the second taco truck. "We've gone with the flow. We've ridden the wave, the crest, and the trough, and here we are. Que Rico, like it says on the truck over there: How rich it is."