One of my favorite heroes, San Francisco Supervisor, Harvey Milk, will be featured in a new Gus Van Sant project, "Milk." The casting call in San Francisco drew 800 guys, trying out for the 70s-era film.
Harvey Milk: yes!
Gus Van Sant: Sounds good--yes!
800 guys in SF, dressed as 70s-era gay freedom fighters: Oh yes!
Sean Penn as Harvey Milk: Um, hmmm; not so sure about that.
Sean Penn is so self-serious at all times. I don't know--while the life of Harvey Milk ended tragically when he was assassinated by sociopathic SF supervisor Dan White, Harvey was a really funny guy. Sean Penn was really funny in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" 25 years ago. I hope we get a little light-heartedness in the bio, that's all I'm saying.
Why was Harvey one of my favorite heroes? Well, because he's a modern historical figure. I remember when he was elected supervisor in 1977 and I very much remember when he was shot and killed along with Mayor George Moscone. This depressed me no end, even though I was only 14 at the time. I just couldn't believe someone could sneak into City Hall and kill two public figures so easily, and then get away with it with less than an 8-year sentence for "voluntary manslaughter." This happened around the same time as the Jonestown Massacre in Guyana, and these two events haunt me to this day. If you grew up in and around San Francisco then, you might know what I mean. This is some real senseless and horrific history, all broadcast on the 6 o'clock news for everyone to see.
Years later, I worked a bit with Rob Epstein (on a Sylvester bio-pic that never got off the ground), who directed "The Times of Harvey Milk," one of the best documentaries ever made, as far as I'm concerned; very moving portrait of the man and the time. Milk believed that if you're gay, you should live openly as gay. This was very brave stuff back then, and continues to be. He encouraged young people to come out and love themselves as they are, and that is why he is my hero and always will be. I hope Sean Penn can lose his constant pinch-face and do the man some justice. It's that tricky line between box-office success and historical integrity.
Photo of Harvey Milk from: Harvey Milk, Second Sight