People of the Year: Gus Van Sant and Dustin Lance Black

Director Gus Van Sant and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black make history with their Oscar nominated film Milk.

BY Advocate.com Editors

January 22 2009 12:00 AM ET

No gay film
project, with the notable exception of Patricia Neil
Warren’s The Front Runner, has
languished in development as long as the story of
Harvey Milk.

In the past 15
years, the tale of the first openly gay man to hold
political office in a major U.S. city has produced two
scripts and interest from multiple directors,
including Oliver Stone and Bryan Singer. But it took
an enterprising young scribe named Dustin Lance Black
to finally get it made.

A writer on the
HBO series Big Love, Black went to San
Francisco and spent time with real-life Milk friends like
Cleve Jones before eventually penning his own draft of the
fabled story. Script in hand, he went to see director
Gus Van Sant, who was previously attached to a version
starring Robin Williams as Milk. The pair convinced
producers Bruce Cohen and Dan Jinks (American
Beauty
) and Focus Features (Brokeback
Mountain
) to sign on to Black’s project, and last
October the film finally reached theaters.

With stellar
performances by big-name stars like Josh Brolin, Emile
Hirsch, and Sean Penn (as Milk), the film just racked up
eight Oscar nominations, including nods for Black and
Van Sant.

However, since
its premiere in San Francisco came just a week before
Proposition 8 passed in California, the film may ultimately
resonate most profoundly with LGBT people as a call
for the next Harvey Milk.  

Tags: film

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