Movies: Milk

Harvey Milk had a large nose, funny hair and a grating New York accent. He was fiercely loyal to his friends and allies but often ruthless toward those who questioned his motives. He was also the first openly gay male elected to public office in the Unit

Harvey Milk had a large nose, funny hair and a grating New York accent. He was fiercely loyal to his friends and allies but often ruthless toward those who questioned his motives.

He was also the first openly gay male elected to public office in the United States. As such, he knew he would die young.

A fearless grassroots populist who encouraged gay men and women to come out of the closet, Milk knew he was a threat to the status quo — even in a relatively sympathetic place like late-1970s San Francisco. About a year before he was killed at age 48, he sat in his modest Castro Street apartment and recorded a will that would be played “only in the event of my death by assassination.”

Director Gus Van Sant and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black use this prescient recording as the backbone of Milk, their lively, surprisingly straightforward biopic of an unlikely politician who touched more lives than he even knew possible.

And perhaps befitting of Milk’s unconventional rise (and continued relevance), Van Sant went the curious route of casting Sean Penn in the lead role — an actor who takes the production to an entirely new level.

Read the Jason Gargano's full cover story here. Get movie times and locations here

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