Dressing Up Milk

By Greg Fieser

Originally published on Advocate.com February 05 2009 12:00 AM ET

Milk costumes Penn x555 (Danny Glicker) | Advocate.com

Milk has become the little movie that could.
Already, the "film that could never get made" has racked up
several prestigious awards including the Stanley Kramer
Award at the Producers Guild and Best Picture from the
New York and San Francisco Film Critics Circles. In
the wake of Prop. 8 passing in California, Milk
became a sober reminder of just how far gay civil
rights has yet to go. Now nominated for eight Academy Awards
including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay,
Milk has become a banner of hope for all those
who still believe in honor and respect for all.

Danny Glicker,
the charming and endearing costume designer responsible
for transporting the audience to another time in Milk,
is
also up for a gold statue. We sat
down with the first-time Oscar nominee to find
out what it was like to work on such a momentous movie
and where we go from here.

Advocate.com:How are you handling all the attention surrounding
Milk and those involved with this project?
Danny Glicker: I’m very honored. It was my
greatest wish to work on this film. I’m just trying
to stay present and take it all in.

How did you come to be part of this film? I’d known about it for a while. People
have been trying to tell this story forever. But when
it was finally green-lighted and it was a go for sure,
I called my agent and said, “I know everyone in the
world wants to work on this movie, but just throw my
hat in the ring, OK?” My agent called back and
said “Gus [Van Sant] wants to meet you in four
hours.” I was running around trying to scrounge
up a presentation -- because I refuse to go into any
meeting unprepared -- and reading the script at the
same time. Thank God I had several friends scrambling around
helping me.

Milk costumes Franco x555 (Danny Glicker) | Advocate.com

How did the meeting go? My vision was very much in sync with
Lance’s [screenwriter Dustin Lance Black]
script and Gus’s vision. We were all in this
together.

What was your vision for this movie? How did you
see it coming together? And how did you use costume
design to tell the story?
First of all, it took so long for this film to
come to fruition because no one could figure out how
to tell the story effectively. But Lance’s
script is so incredibly elegant -- deceptively elegant
-- it interconnects all parts of Harvey’s
life and world. People couldn’t see that
before. Then Gus wanted to set it in San Francisco, in the
Castro. I mean, we were shooting in Harvey’s
camera store, not a set or even the store next door,
but the real Castro Camera shop that Harvey owned. And
by doing that, everything was allowed to breathe and have a
real life. And if it’s breathing, it
doesn’t feel stagy like some period pieces can
be. I wanted to re-create the time exactly as it was --
every part. I didn’t want to saturate the
colors or use sepia or anything. I wanted to make it
just like it was and just let it live. Because of where it
was set there was this incredible authenticity to the
whole project. I give Gus credit because there is
enormous discipline behind the looseness. It’s
free to live in a controlled environment.

What was your research like for a project like this? Tons of research. I have huge binders on every
character. I worked with the San Francisco LGBT
society and looked through their extensive archives.
The public library has beautiful archives. And I was lucky
that Danny Nicoletta -- who’s become a good
friend -- had an amazing photo archive as well.
[Nicoletta is a photographer and longtime chronicler
of San Francisco’s gay scene and was a core
member of Harvey Milk’s team.]

Milk costumes Brolin x555 (Danny Glicker) | Advocate.com

So you got to actually work with people who worked
with Harvey?
Oh sure. I would do a fitting for the character
of Cleve Jones [played by Emile Hirsch in the film]
and show it to the real Cleve Jones and ask if it
looked right. Cleve was incredibly vocal if something
wasn’t right.

How important was it to you to be 100% authentic? Anytime there was a documented image of an event
that we were portraying, I would re-create it exactly.
It was very important to look at photographs and
newspapers to get everything precisely the same.

Did you watch the documentary The Life and Times of
Harvey Milk
?
I’ve watched it several times -- even
before I got the job. It’s impossible to get
through it without crying.

Milk costumes Hirsch x555 (Danny Glicker) | Advocate.com

I have to ask, with such big Hollywood names
working on this film, were there any diva attitudes on set?
I am sorry to report there were absolutely no
attitudes from anyone on set [laughs].
Everyone, from the biggest star to the littlest, was
there because they wanted to tell this story and knew this
was important. These were the most enthusiastic and
supportive people I have ever worked with. Everyone
was just so gratified to be there because of Gus, and
everyone wanted to tell Harvey’s story. This was a
once-in-a-lifetime gig. No movie will ever be this
great again, for me. I have never been on a film that
I wanted to go on longer. It was an absolute dream and I
will be spoiled for the rest of my life because of it.

This is your first Oscar nomination -- how do you
feel about it?
I’m incredibly excited. I’m
honored to be part of the whole process. I’m
happy to be a part of anything that brings more attention to
the film. I have to say that I am excited and humbled
to be nominated with Albert Wolsky (Revolutionary
Road
), whom I hold in very high esteem and look up
to.

So what are you wearing to the Oscars? I’m getting heavy pressure from my
friends to wear something wacky. Normally I kind of
wear a uniform -- cashmere sweater or Lacoste shirt
-- I’m rather understated in my dress. But it is
a once-in-a-lifetime…

Milk costumes Luna x555 (Danny Glicker) | Advocate.com

So, bright pink tuxedo? I can’t say anymore… But I did
learn a lot on this film and I want to embrace
Harvey’s idea of the value of publicity and
I’ll do whatever I can to take advantage of the
cameras… I can’t say anymore.

So, you also were the costume designer for
Transamerica. Do you specifically pick
gay-themed movies to work on, or was that just a coincidence?
I don’t set out to do only gay-themed
films, though I have been very lucky to be a part of
many films dealing with LGBT and the like.
Transamerica was another blessing for me. I
learned so much about myself. I am very, very lucky to work
on projects close to me and important to me. I am so
delighted to be able to check off [Milk] from
my short list of important things I HAVE to do. Any
project needs to connect with me and speak to me. I want to
do things that change and challenge minds and
attitudes. I don’t want to do a formula of a
formula.

Thank you so much, and best of luck to you.Thank you. It’s such an honor.