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

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.

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.

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