Sean Penn has been named to play gay-rights icon Harvey Milk in a movie, currently titled Milk, which will begin production this January. Gus Van Sant will direct the film and Utah-native Dustin Lance Black has written the screenplay. Black is the creator of HBO's Big Love and directed On The Bus. The film will be distributed worldwide by Focus Features, which is also co-financing the project with Groundswell Productions.
The announcement was made Nov. 16 by Focus CEO James Schamus and Groundswell CEO Michael London.
Harvey Milk (1930-1978) was an activist and politician, and the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in America; in 1977, he was voted to the city supervisors' board of San Francisco. The following year, both he and the city's mayor George Moscone were shot to death by another city supervisor, Dan White. Mr. Milk was previously the subject of the Academy Award-winning documentary feature The Times of Harvey Milk (1984), directed by Rob Epstein and produced by Richard Schmeichen. Milk will be the first non-documentary feature to explore the man's life and career.
"Gus Van Sant is the perfect artist to bring to the screen the extraordinary story of Harvey Milk," said Shamus. "We couldn't be morevthrilled to join our partners at Groundswell in helping make this dream
project a reality."