In a recent interview, Dustin Lance
Black, who penned the script for Milk, said that every studio
except Focus Features turned down the film.
In the 2008 film, Sean Penn plays
politician Harvey Milk, a gay activist who won a long-fought election
to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977 to become
California's first openly gay elected official. San Francisco
supervisor Dan White, who the next year assassinated Milk along with
Mayor George Moscone, is played by Josh Brolin. James Franco plays
Milk's romantic partner.
The film received 8 Oscar nominations
including a nomination for best picture and became an instant gay
classic. Black won his first Oscar for the film's screenplay.
screenwriter Dustin Lance Black: Harvey Milk “would have gone”
Speaking with comedian Suzi Ruffell on
her Out with Suzi Ruffell podcast, Black, 45, said that the
film was a labor of love.
“It was a labor of love, and you go
to a studio with that,” Black
said. “Plus, I had worked my tail off to get [director] Gus Van
Sant, Sean Penn, James Franco, Emile Hirsh.”
Black added that the world has “changed
massively” as it relates to LGBT representation in Hollywood since
the film's debut.
“No one was buying gay films. Studios
weren't asking for gay characters or gay storylines. There were a few
that had been successful – thank God for Ellen and Will &
“Now you have executives, places like
Netflix, that know they want to serve a diverse audience. That just
wasn't a conversation.”
“There had been one big, successful
box office success, which was Brokeback Mountain. And so I
went there first, to Focus Features, because I said, 'They know that
this isn't a dead end.' Everyone else said no to it, by the way.”
Focus Features “did an incredible job
with it,” Black added.