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Dressing Up Milk

Dressing Up Milk

Milk costume designer Danny Glicker celebrates his first Oscar nom -- and shares a few of his preliminary sketches -- with

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. Wesat 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. 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.

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.]

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.

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...

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.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreAdvocate Magazine - Gio Benitez

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