By Mary Montserrat-Howlett
NEW YORK(RushPRnews)12/29/08–Every so often a movie is made, which aims to re-tell an important story; a piece of history that too few know about or maybe have forgotten. Gus Van Sant has made, what some are calling, directorial history, with his new biopic â€œMilkâ€, based on one of the most influential American gay activists, Harvey Milk. Oscar winning actor Sean Penn plays the lovable character, in one of his most charismatic and enchanting performances, which could end up landing him another Best Actor Award, since 2003, for â€œMystic Riverâ€.
Milk was the first openly gay man in the United States to win an election for public office, before being tragically shot in 1978. Van Santâ€™s (â€œGood Will Huntingâ€, â€œElephantâ€) film, supported by Dustin Lance Blackâ€™s beautifully crafted script, capture the spirit of a strengthening gay community, in spite of the tumultuous climate of 1970â€™s San Francisco.
â€œIt was a wonderfully written script, with one of the great directors. Any actor with the hunger to participate in something fantastic wants to work with Gus,â€ Penn told RushPRnews. Delving wholeheartedly into his role, Pennâ€™s portrayal of Milk was astonishingly true to that of the real man. Finding inspiration in peopleâ€™s stories; archival footage; and Rob Epsteinâ€™s Award-winning documentary: â€œThe Times of Harvey Milkâ€, Penn had some tough shoes to fill, but came out a perfect fit.
â€œThe most exciting version of Harvey Milk, to me, was Harvey Milk. If you see the documentary, he is the movie star of that documentary. Heâ€™s electric,â€ Penn says.
Josh Brolin, (â€œWâ€, â€œFlirting with Disasterâ€) who played city supervisor Dan White, (responsible for the death of Harvey Milk and supervisor George Moscone), recounts a particular story in which he got to know his character. Some police officers that had known White, allowed Brolin to hear Whiteâ€™s confession tape. Brolin told RushPR, â€œIt was extremely revealing to me because there was a sense of arrogance to it, but there was also an incredible sense of victim to him.â€
â€œMilkâ€ has been a challenging and meaningful experience for the other â€œMilkâ€ cast. Anne Pill, who plays Milkâ€™s 22 year old, frizzy haired, lesbian campaign manager, Anne Kroneneberg says â€œAfter having read the story, I just wondered: â€œhow has this not been out there?â€â€
Cast members did feel extremely fortunate to have the help and support of so many original sources in order to be as true to their characters as possible, but most also agreed that at times, it could quite intimidating and demanding.
Movies like â€œBrokeback Mountainâ€ have certainly had a large impact in bringing â€œgayâ€ closer to the mainstream. However, it is interesting to see â€œMilkâ€ reveal itself in such a momentous time in U.S. politics; the election of the first African-American President, Proposition 8â€¦ One can only wonder if the movieâ€™s timing is coincidence or political agenda; a way for Van Sant to help finish what Milk never had the chance to.
And if Harvey Milk had livedâ€¦ Penn says, â€œLess people would have died of AIDS and I think Ronald Regan would have been forced to address the subject. I think people are dead because he died too soon.â€
Great film, great director, great script, great actors, and an uncanny performance by Penn, â€œMilkâ€ may be bringing home more than Best Actor at the 2009 Academy Awards.