By Jeff Walsh
Wrapping up the Milk coverage (the movie opens in a lot more theaters this Friday), here is the transcript of the press conference with the cast. The interview includes quotes from screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, director Gus Van Sant (both pictured here), and actors Sean Penn (Harvey Milk), Josh Brolin (Dan White), James Franco (Scott Smith), Emile Hirsch (Cleve Jones), and Allison Pill (Anne Kronenberg).
This event took place the day after the movie's premiere in San Francisco at the Castro Theater. It's important to note that this all took place before election day, so all references to Prop 8 were before the results were known. Another thing that's interesting is that the audio sounded fine to the press in attendance, but the actors seemed to have difficulty hearing us ask our questions, so sometimes the answers don't quite match the questions.
Once again, this was a roundtable interview, so there were 40-50 press people there for a 60-minute event. I ended up asking two questions (both marked with a *): the first question of the entire event and, later, although I knew I didn't really have any use for this question or answer, I really thought the parallels between Prop 6 in the movie and Prop 8 now were striking, in that you can see that we didn't earn from history and were repeating the same mistakes. So, I got Black and Penn to comment on that in the hope that some of the other press might write that story. I have no idea if anyone did.
It was a pretty low-key event, very relaxed and fun. Also, whenever I write (laughs), it was typically the whole room and most of the panel laughing, and not just the person being quoted laughing at their own joke.
OK, a lot of interview coming at ya, so enough out of me. Here's what we said:
By Jeff Walsh
Many of the actors in Milk didn't just have to play a role, but portray people who were not only still alive but often on the shooting set. The night I was an extra in Milk's crowd scene (the one where Sean Penn as Milk has a bullhorn saying 'I know you're angry. I'm angry, too.') Emile Hirsch was onstage as Cleve Jones. As he and Sean were filming the scene, the crowd would chant things like 'Gay rights now!' and such. In between takes, you'd hear a bullhorn asking Cleve if any other chants were popular at that time, and the real life Cleve Jones would go over to the crew, and give them ideas, which would then be incorporated into the movie. So, at every step of the way, some of the real life people behind Milk not only helped Dustin Lance Back with the accuracy of the script, but they were still there on set, making the film as accurate as possible.
I got the chance to sit down with three of Harvey Milk's friends (shown in this article with the actors who play them in the movie).
Cleve Jones, played in the movie by Emile Hirsch, worked on Harvey's political campaign and later founded the AIDS Memorial Quilt.
Anne Kronenberg, played in the movie by Allison Pill, started as Harvey Milk's campaign manager for his election to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. This was the beginning of a long career in politics, and she now services as deputy director for administration and planning of the San Francisco Department of Public Health.
Danny Nicoletta, played in the movie by Lucas Grabeel, worked as a clerk in Harvey Milk's Castro Street camera shop, and is still a photographer in the city. At the 30th anniversary of the assassination of Harvey Milk and mayor George Moscone last week, Nicoletta wasn't there to speak. He was shooting pictures of it for the local press.
This interview was another roundtable, and not me sitting down personally with all three. My question has an asterisk before it, if you care, but what they had to say was interesting enough that I felt it needed to be captured here.
Here's what we said...
By Jeff Walsh
I recently got the chance to attend the press junket for Milk in San Francisco, where I got to talk with people who knew Harvey personally and the people involved with the movie. But I have to admit, the person I was most interested in talking to was Diego Luna, mainly because I'm a big fan of 'Y Tu Mama Tambien,' so when I got the chance to join his press round table, I was totally there.
So, this is a bit different than normal. It wasn't a 1:1 interview (there were like 9-10 press interviewing him at the same time, my questions start with a *). Luna isn't gay. But I think 'Milk' is such an amazing, important film, I'm bending my usual rules on that stuff. Who might show up next answering my questions in Oasis? Sean Penn? James Franco? You'll have to tune in to find out...
It was interesting watching Luna answer the questions, which often turned their own corners, and were never on the brief side. The press were told not to dominate the interview and let everyone get their turn to ask a question, but it was clear early on, there was no chance in hell everyone would get a question in at the pace he was answering.
But since his answers were so heartfelt, eloquent, and explored his passion for art, community, and this movie, here it all is...
By Jeff Walsh
"Milk," the new Gus Van Sant movie, tracks the modern gay rights movement from its birth responding to police raids on gay bars in the late 1960s, through the sexual revolution of the 70s, until the assassination of the first openly gay elected official, San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk, in 1978.
Living in San Francisco, the aura of Harvey Milk hasn't diminished. Looking up on Castro Street, near his camera shop, a fake window is painted with Harvey Milk leaning out and smiling. The portrait reminds us how far we've come, the price people paid for the freedoms we now enjoy and take for granted, and whether we're on the right path for our future. A rainbow flag flies a block away at Harvey Milk Plaza. In our City Hall, a bronze bust of Harvey Milk was added this year, on the 30th anniversary of his death.
So, Harvey Milk is an icon as well as a constant presence. I was 10 years old when he was killed, but over the years, I've developed a mental image of Harvey and I was hesitant to have this long-planned movie possibly ruin it. I needn't have worried.
"Milk" captures so much of what I find iconic about Milk, but also makes him more human and accessible at the same time. Closeted until he was 40, Milk moved to San Francisco, grew out his beard and became part of the counterculture and gay community. He opened a camera shop on Castro Street as the area was shifting from its Irish-Catholic roots to the gayborhood that (largely) still exists today.
Today was my first day as an extra on the set of the movie about gay rights icon Harvey Milk. "Milk" is being directed by Gus Van Sant, with Sean Penn as Harvey Milk, Emile Hirsch as Cleve Jones, and James Franco and Diego Luna playing some of the other roles.