Last Night: Milk Premiere at the Castro Theater
Notes and Audio by John Geluardi
Photos by Tim Wagner
Hollywood’s star-studded red carpet rolled into San Francisco last night for the world premiere of Milk, a new film that depicts the life of slain gay civil rights leader Harvey Milk.
The event drew hundreds of pro-gay marriage supporters who gathered across from the legendary Castro Theater to wave No On 8 placards and chant slogans. “Harvey would have loved this,” says his campaign manager Anne Kronenberg, “In fact, I’m sure he is loving it.”
It was a classic red carpet scene of the type that is rarely seen in San Francisco. About three dozen media outlets covered the event including one crew from the French version of HBO. The film’s producers, director and actors made their way along the red carpet talking about Harvey Milk and what it was like filming the movie in the heartland of the gay civil rights movement.
"It would not have been authentic in the way that we needed it to be," says Dan Jinks, who along with his co-producer Bruce Cohen could have shot the film much more inexpensively in Canada. "We all thought from day one that this movie needed to be filmed in San Francisco and we are so proud to have done so. We're feeling a lot of love tonight."
Emile Hirsch, who plays gay activist Cleve Jones in the movie, says he fell in love with the city while working here. “We were here for three months and it’s an amazing city, not just for the amazing things that happened here in the 1970s, but it’s also a very beautiful and radical place.”
The crowd across the street went wild when Sean Penn, who plays Milk in the film, arrived with his wife Robin Wright Penn. The actor ran across the street to greet the No On 8 supporters. Other actors included James Franco, Josh Brolin, Emile Hirsch, Diego Luna and Alison Pill.
Director Gus Van Sant and Milk screenwriter Lance Black say they are teaming up to bring another production to San Francisco. This time it will be the film version of Tom Wolfe’s 1968 nonfiction classic The Electric Cool Aid Acid Test, which tells the story of author Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters’ psychedelic trip across the country in a school bus. “We’re writing right now, so maybe if we can find the money, we’ll be working here again,” Van Sant says. “It can be challenging in San Francisco, but it’s a beautiful city to shoot in.”
Thirteen-year-old SF resident Sam Gable answered a casting call and got to relive a piece of the city’s history as an extra in Havey Milk inauguration scene at City Hall. “It was fun,” says Gabel who attended the premiere. “I got hang out on the set and I met all the actors. I really learned a lot.”
Also on hand were politicians who knew Harvey Milk. Supervisor Tom Ammiano, who played himself in the movie and former Supervisor Roberta Achtenberg, the first openly lesbian or gay public official appointed to a federal post by Congress. So was former Supervisor Carol Ruth Silver, who sat next to Milk on the board and current supervisors Bevan Dufty and Ross Mirkarimi. Assemblyman Mark Leno says the time has come for Harvey Milk to get the national recognition as a civil rights leader he deserves.
“He will be a national icon without a doubt, it just takes some hindsight and some maturation of our community into the general population,” Leno says. “There will be a time when younger people who barely know about his life will begin to know what kind of courage he must have had and say ‘my God, look what this man did.’