Singer and Van Sant Vie to be First with Harvey Milk Film

We’ve seen it before with Armageddon and Deep Impact (killer asteroids), then again with Capote and Infamous (Truman Capote). Now, slain San Francisco supervisor Harvey Milk is the next subject to be tackled with dueling films, and according to Variety, two well-known directors are racing to get them into production.

Singer_vansantBryan Singer is attached to direct The Mayor of Castro Street for producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, who hope to get the film underway soon despite Singer’s July commitment to a project called Valkyrie. Said Zadan: “We’re seeing the light at the end of a long tunnel. Warner Independent is pushing us to get the film made right away. Some of it might have to do with the enormous success of ‘Brokeback Mountain,’ and some of it is passion for the right tone and the story we are telling. [Screenwriter Chris McQuarrie] has nailed the take, and the goal is to have the script ready so that we can make the movie as soon as Bryan finishes his UA film. We’ve had tremendous response from actors.”

Gus van Sant has reportedly attached himself to a Milk script by Dustin Lance Black, as yet untitled, which they are planning to shop to studios next week. Variety notes the irony of Van Sant’s situation, as he was once attached to direct The Mayor of Castro Street, which has been gestating for 15 years with various people attached.

MilkAt a moment when gay rights are at the forefront of political discussion, the time is certainly ripe for a Harvey Milk picture. The dramatic story of the first openly gay elected official in the United States who was shot and killed along with Mayor George Moscone by fellow supervisor Dan White is not only historic and tragic, but has all the elements to tingle both the box office and awards committees. And Milk’s tale as a political figurehead could not be more deserving of a retelling on film.

Anyone who has seen the amazing documentary “The Times of Harvey Milk” and witnessed (or perhaps remembers) Dianne Feinstein emotional announcement that Milk and Moscone were shot and killed before a cadre of reporters knows what I mean. If you haven’t seen it, put your request in to Netflix now.

Here’s some background on Harvey Milk for those unfamiliar. A bust of the gay rights pioneer is scheduled to go on permanent display in City Hall in 2008, on what would have been Milk’s 75th birthday.

And, not that i’m biased or anything, but does anyone else think Jake Gyllenhaal would be great in this role?

Dueling directors Milk a good story [variety]

You may have missed…
Harvey Milk to get Bust at San Francisco City Hall [tr]
Thank God for Harvey Milk [tr]


  1. says

    Jake as Harvey? I don’t think so.

    Gus was attached to the “Mayor of Castro Street” project back when Oliver Stone was executive producer. Gus said Stone wanted to make a film about city hall whereas he wanted to make a film about Milk’s life and how the Castro went “from hippie to gay almost overnight.”

    Jake would be good casting for The Sugar Plum Fairy (Joe Campbell) who was Harvey’s boytoy back when he was a closeted investment banker in New York.

  2. sam says

    I’m very excited about the prospect of Harvey Milk movies. But, as much as I love Jake, I can’t see him in the title role. Maybe Johnny Depp? Actually, I’d really like to see an openly gay actor play Harvey.

  3. 24play says

    Oh yes, by all means, Sam.

    T. R. Knight, Chad Allen and Neal Patrick Harris to the head of the line. Let’s really do justice to Harvey’s memory.

  4. secretagentman says

    Oh yes, I think NealPH would be perfect! Jake not so much. I love him and all but no. I’m sure both directors could do it justice, I think it should come down to which is the better script.

  5. Daniel says

    I know that it’s the movies and all–but Harvey Milk wasn’t a pretty boy. He was rather attractive but not in a usual way. There are a lot of really good actors who could do a great job–I hope they cast a wider net.

  6. Tad says

    NO NO NO Jake would be horrifically miscast. Harvey Milk was an ordinary guy and a warm-hearted soul without an ounce of narcissism in him. This needs a solid character actor, someone like a Paul Giamatti, who can transform themselves and make a real human portrayal of the guy. Johnny Depp is not right either. (I’m not even going to dignify 24Play’s idiotic politically correct suggestions with a response!)

  7. Chris in Seattle says

    How about Hugh Jackman? He’s the only actor I can think of with a similar facial structure..they’d have to age him a bit for parts of it, but I think he has the acting chops to pull it off..and if Bryan Singer is directing, we know he’s already got the connection.

  8. says

    Hank Azzaria is closest physically to Harvey Milk, but he’s not a Big Star.

    Maybe Ryan Gosling could do it. He’s young, but the right make-up could fix that an he’s one of the best actors currently breathing.

  9. Daniel says

    I usually hate it when they use age make-up. It usually looks fake. I like the notion of Paul Giamatti or Hank Azzaria. Or Denis O’Hare, even though he doesn’t look like him Stephen Spinella would look good–neither of them are movie stars but maybe they could cast a big name as one of the other parts.

  10. Leland says

    You know I luvs ya, Andy, but you accidentally repeated the unbiquitous factual error about Milk being “the first openly gay elected official in the United States” rather than your correct “first…elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors” in your linked essay.

    Don’t mean to take anything away from him [though, despite the claim above, he was EXTREMELY narcissistic], but the first out gay person elected to public office was Kathy Kozachenko, elected to the Ann Arbor, Michigan City Council in April 1974, three years before Milk.

    1974 was the watershed year in that regard. Out Elaine Noble was elected to the Massachusetts House the same year, and Allen Spear, already in the Minnesota Senate, came out and was relected repeatedly. Ironically, due to redistricting, Noble ended up facing the task of having to run against a then still-publicly closeted Barney Frank to stay in the House, after she had helped get him elected originally by marshalling district gay votes for him. She chose not to, and now, of course, Frank is an out US Congressman.

  11. ggreen says

    I think Adrien Brody would be a great choice, however playing gay might be hitting to close to home for Mr. B. I’m not hold out much hope that this project will get made. The main characters aren’t pretty and sexy enough for mass market. There have been so many people attached to this project for their own glorification that Harvey always seems to get lost. If it does get made it will most likely be bullshit. With Toronto filling in for San Francisco to save money. Since the Castro Clone look pushes so many buttons look for them to be pushed to the margins. You can’t show gay guys with big crotches in movies.

  12. anon says

    Jake is too young, though he could play Dan White I suppose. Adrian Brody is a good idea, though the chances of getting any major stars are slim. Milk was a “complicated” man, not without demons of his own, though Dan White was the one truly “possessed” as they say. This is not going to be a movie with much broad appeal to mainstream audiences or international audiences. In terms of personality, but not up to the requisite acting skills needed, Brad Pitt could play Dan White. Who to play Diane though….?

  13. Eric says

    Everyone seems to have forgotten there already was a TV movie, Showtime’s “Execution of Justice,” which is more about the aftermath of the assassination than Milk’s life and career.

    Peter Coyote was Milk and Tim Daly a scarily perfect Dan White.

  14. Mike says

    — I can only hope that if Van Sant & Lance Black go shopping around for support than the powers than be will not meddle with Lance’s script. Lance would never write a script that could be bad and if left alone his work stands. If given a free hand the two of them could not film anything that wouldn’t come from the heart.

  15. Richard says

    Historical perspective is everything, and we should also note that not everyone thought Harvey Milk a wunderkind; in fact many gay San Franciscans thought he was a flaming asshole. Moscone, while a hero following his assassination, was no saint — rumors of his personal life abound to this day. This was a very strange and confusing era in San Francisco — a highly permissive, “anything goes” chapter in the City’s history that also allowed Jim Jones to gain political clout and limelight (appointed by Moscone to the City’s housing commission after delivering votes from his faithful zombies in a very close election) — followed by the exodus of his flock and their subsequent assassination of a U.S. congressman and their own mass suicide. The era also provided the culture medium in which AIDS festered and then exploded — public health in the bath houses was out of control and ill informed. It was a very weird time, it was the immediate post Haight Street/free love era. Strangely, from the literal ashes and disarray, Dianne Feinstein fell into place as one of the more balanced, mature and thoughtful mayors in the City’s history, and she’s now one of our more cogent and srticulate senior Senators. Seen in context, it’s weird how it all shakes out, like some sort of evolutionary experiment.

  16. says

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again..if it’s worth while having it’s worthwhile waiting for and we been waiting a long time.I knew both Harvey and George as friends and my images of them have appeared in several books and documentaries and are featured in the “WHEN THEN WAS NOW” segment of Uncle Don’s My image of Harvey
    with a candle in one hand and a bullhorn in the other and a SAVE OUR RIGHTS SIGN in the back round
    intoduced Harvey nationally via the Associated Press on Orange Tuesday 6/7/77 at an impromptu march after Anita Bryant’s anti-gay vote in Dade counrty Florida that struct down a gay ordinance.
    The following frame has never been published and I hope to make it a Poster for the 30 Anniversary
    next year of the assassination. It is similar to the SAVE OUR RIGHTS image except the back of the sign is showing and it say’s NOW… Together they have a message that was timely then and even more timely NOW !

  17. says

    Milk was an articulate, but largely ineffectual, legislator. His sole legistlative impact is the City’s pooper-scooper ordinance. Oh course, his death precluded future objectives, and Richard is correct in reminding us Harvey could be a pain as well as a plus.

    Even after Harvey got a haircut, donned a suit and tie, and wrestled with the Knight Initiative (along with Sally), it was Ronald Reagan, Milk’s nemesis, that defeated that initiative. Milk had the rhetorical skills that should have made a difference, but the Field Poll eight days before the election had the initiative passing by a landslide — passing even in San Francisco. Reagan’s repudiation of the initiative seven days before the election and a day after the Poll, turned the tide.

    Lesson? Rhetoric without stature often fails. We need to accept the support of everyone, not just those we find “orthodox” to all GLBT causes or political-correctness. Harvey was not the first, nor the last, to look a gift-horse in the mouth, but hopefully we’ll learn that “everyone not against us” is for us. And not everyone “for us” is able to deliver, regardless of their talents. Too many Knights, Whites, and Bryants require we need to be more inclusive, if we want to be included.

  18. psgoodguy says

    jake was good in brokeback. but i’m confused as to why gay men continue to perpetuate their obsessive fantasy of him as a gay man as if he plays enuf gay characters he’ll turn gay. we fight that BS every day when people say we choose our orientation and yet we continue to perpetuate the ridiculous idea by pushing jake as the “every gay man” ideal. van sant is openly gay and you’d THINK he’d be able to sign on a suitable GAY actor to play a GAY icon. if not, i vote for eddie izzard. he’s got the chops to pull it off.

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