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Movie about Harvey Milk to be Shot in Castro
“Milk” to be directed by Gus Van Sant and star Sean Penn; Filming to begin Jan. 21 in neighborhood

Colleagues of Harvey Milk that are portrayed in the film meet the
production crew at an open casting call for “Milk” on Dec. 8.
The group (from left to right): Daniel Nicoletta, director Gus Van Sant, Anne
Kronenberg, Cleve Jones, producer Dan Jinks and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black.

By Romanus Wolter

The story of San Francisco gay rights activist and icon Harvey Milk is going to be made into a feature film shot entirely in San Francisco.

Acclaimed director Gus Van Sant (“Good Will Hunting,” “My Own Private Idaho”) will direct the biographical drama based on a script by screenwriter Dustin Lance Black (“Big Love”).

Titled “Milk,” the film will star Academy Award winning Bay Area resident Sean Penn as well as Emile Hirsch. The actor Josh Brolin (“No Country for Old Men”) is slated to play Dan White who assassinated Milk and Mayor George Moscone at City Hall in November of 1978.

To make the shooting process a success, the production company behind the film, Milk Productions, held a well-attended meeting at the Castro Theatre on Dec. 20 to discuss the logistics of filming in the Castro. In addition to Van Sant, several members of the “Milk” team were present.

According to Milk Productions, filming in the neighborhood will begin on Jan. 22 and continue through the middle of February. Shooting will wrap in the City in the middle of March.
Though the plan is to try and shoot during weekdays, there will be a night march scene for which the film’s producers plan on reaching out to the LGBT community to find extras.

The Department of Parking and Traffic, Muni and the SF police are already working together to ensure that the film has a low impact on disrupting daily life in the neighborhood.

“The ‘70s was the golden age for the Castro, the advancement of the gay movement and social change in the United States,” said Supervisor Bevan Dufty who addressed the crowd and lauded the effort to portray Milk’s story on the big screen.

“It is not just the story of a man, but a story of a city, a neighborhood,” said producer Dan Jinks.
“Milk” follows the 1977 historic election in which Milk was elected to the SF Board of Supervisors, culminating in his assassination. Known as the “Mayor of Castro Street,” Milk was one of the first openly gay men to be elected to local political office.

At the meeting at the Castro Theatre, Van Sant said he “loves this story for Harvey’s honesty, humor and ability to bring people together. He brought gay issues to the forefront.”

Van Sant has been involved in trying to bring Milk’s saga to the big screen for the past 17 years. In 1993, Oliver Stone hired him to direct the story and Robin Williams was set to star but the deal fell through.

Finally, producers felt that a new screenplay by Black was strong enough to bring together the director, stars and funding necessary to make the film a reality.

Van Sant told the audience that he is making this film because, “the world needs to hear Harvey’s story and understand the influence one man can have on society.”

The crew has been advised to spend locally as much as possible. For instance, food will be catered from neighborhood restaurants and the art department is buying supplies from Cliff’s Variety Store.

The hope of the production team and of Stephanie Coyote, director of the SF Film Commission, is that the Castro will experience an increase in visitors in the same way that films based on the ‘60s have made the Haight a tourist destination.

The main shooting location will be on Castro Street, with a few interiors at local businesses.

Residents with concerns or questions about the shooting schedule are encouraged to contact the SF Film Commission at (415) 554-6344.