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Dustin Lance Black ‘doubted every day’ his LGBT movie ‘Milk’ would be made

The biopic about the LGBT politician won the screenwriter an Academy Award for Original Screenplay

By Steve Brown

Words: Steve Brown

Dustin Lance Black “doubted every day” that his Academy Award winning movie Milk would be made.

Today (November 27) marks 40 years since LGBT politician Harvey Milk was assassinated by Dan White while at San Francisco City Hall back in 1978.

Milk became an LGBT icon and was one of the first openly gay American politicians and his life and work were created into the 2008 biopic starring Sean Penn – written by openly gay screenwriter Black, who took to Twitter to commemorate the politician’s death.

He wrote: “Today marks 40 years since Harvey Milk’s assassination. Please add your name to join #RememberHarvey, the digital march to celebrate his memory and the fight for LGBTQ political representation:  @VictoryInst”

Black – who won an Academy Award for Original Screenplay – also spoke to Focus Features about making the biopic and said much of the LGBT history has been “buried or destroyed”.

He said: “When we were making Milk, we doubted every day that our green light would last until we wrapped.

“Now I still see the film on planes and TV wherever I go. Every year, I am invited to dozens of screenings around the world to speak about Harvey Milk and why we made the film.

“For many, the film is increasingly being seen as the first part of a larger project to revive our lost history.

“So much of the rich history of the LGBTQ+ community has been lost. No, lost is too passive a word.

“Buried or destroyed is more accurate. In building on the success of Milk, we have to look to the diversity of the LGBTQ+ community, to look at all the different people who got us to where we are today.”

He then added how 10 years ago it was “incredibly difficult” to make a film or TV series based around an LGBT person or character.

Black continued: “It’s hard to talk about how different the film and television world was with LGBTQ+ stories then.

“Things have changed so massively in 10 years. Back then, getting people interested in stories that just had an LGBTQ+ character was incredibly difficult, much less a story that took our lives seriously.

“A mainstream film that had LGBTQ+ characters at its core seemed impossible. There were a few exceptions.

Will & Grace was one. Ellen [the TV sitcom] had come out but had been cancelled. And then there was Brokeback Mountain at Focus.

“Today there are LGBTQ+ characters all over television and movies.

“To get Milk made, we thought let’s package it, get a cast together, and then take it to the one place that has proven they know how to do this and do it right.

“Let’s take it to Focus Features.”