Harvey Milk's ashes,
photo by Daniel Nicoletta
This press release arrived in my email box today. It's always interesting to see the pitch straight from the publicist. In particular note the proud proclamation that the film: "will be the first non-documentary feature to explore the man’s life and career."
GUS VAN SANT TO DIRECT SEAN PENN AS HARVEY MILK; FOCUS FEATURES TO DISTRIBUTE MILK WORLDWIDE;
GROUNDSWELL PRODUCTIONS CO-FINANCING WITH FOCUS
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NEW YORK, November 16, 2007 – Academy Award-nominated director Gus Van Sant will commence production in January on the biographical drama Milk, to star Academy Award winner Sean Penn as gay-rights icon Harvey Milk. Milk will be produced by Dan Jinks and Bruce Cohen, the Academy Award-winning producers of American Beauty, through The Jinks/Cohen Company. Milk is being co-financed by Groundswell Productions and Focus Features, and distributed worldwide by Focus. The announcement was made today by Focus CEO James Schamus and Groundswell CEO Michael London.
Mr. London will also serve in a producing capacity on the film. Milk is being executive-produced by Bruna Papandrea of Groundswell; William Horberg; and Dustin Lance Black (Big Love), who wrote the original screenplay.
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 Schmiechen. Milk will be the first non-documentary feature to explore the man’s life and career.
Mr. Schamus said, “Gus Van Sant is the perfect artist to bring to the screen the extraordinary story of Harvey Milk, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to join our partners at Groundswell in helping make this dream project a reality.”
Mr. London added, “The Focus team is the best in the business when it comes to provocative, socially relevant movies with world-class talent like Gus Van Sant and Sean Penn. We’re thrilled that they share our passion for telling the story of Harvey Milk.”
Mr. Jinks and Mr. Cohen commented, “We couldn’t be more proud to be working with Gus Van Sant and Sean Penn in bringing this important and moving story to the screen.”
Focus Features International will handle overseas sales for the movie. David Gerson, Focus vice president of production and development, is supervising Milk for president of production John Lyons.
Bill Groom, whose previous credits include The Pledge (directed by Mr. Penn), will be the production designer on Milk. Harris Savides, in his fifth feature collaboration with Mr. Van Sant, will be the cinematographer on the film.
Gus Van Sant has directed such films as Mala Noche (a restored version of which was re-released earlier this year), Drugstore Cowboy (which won Best Film and Best Director from the National Society of Film Critics), My Own Private Idaho (which earned him an Independent Spirit Award for Best Screenplay), To Die For (for which Nicole Kidman won a Golden Globe Award), Good Will Hunting (for which he received a Best Director Oscar nomination), Finding Forrester (which was honored at the 2001 Berlin International Film Fetsival), Elephant (which won the top prize, the Palme d’Or, at the 2003 Cannes International Film Festival), and Paranoid Park (which will be released early next year).
In addition to the aforementioned multi-Oscar-winning American Beauty, Dan Jinks and Bruce Cohen have produced films including Tim Burton’s Big Fish; Peyton Reed’s Down with Love; Joseph Ruben’s The Forgotten; and John August’s The Nines. Their producing credits for television include this season’s new hit series Pushing Daisies.
Groundswell Productions is an independent financing and production company, founded by Academy Award-nominated producer Michael London in February 2006, with office headquarters located in Beverly Hills. Groundswell is currently in production on Appaloosa, for New Line, with Ed Harris directing and starring opposite Renée Zellweger and Viggo Mortensen; and in post-production on The Marc Pease Experience, for Paramount Vantage, directed by Todd Louiso and starring Jason Schwartzman and Ben Stiller. Groundswell has completed production on The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, written and directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber and based on the Michael Chabon novel, starring Sienna Miller, Peter Sarsgaard, and Nick Nolte; Smart People, directed by Noam Murro and starring Dennis Quaid, Thomas Haden Church, Ellen Page, and Sarah Jessica Parker, which Miramax Films will release in 2008; and The Visitor, a co-production with Participant Productions, from writer/director Tom McCarthy and starring Richard Jenkins, which will be released next year by Overture Films.
Focus Features (www.focusfeatures.com
In addition to Milk, current and upcoming Focus Features releases include Joe Wright’s Atonement, starring James McAvoy, Keira Knightley, and Romola Garai; Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges, starring Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, and Ralph Fiennes; Bharat Nalluri’s Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, starring Frances McDormand and Amy Adams; Shane Acker’s animated fantasy epic 9, starring Elijah Wood and Jennifer Connelly; Henry Selick’s stop-motion animated feature Coraline, starring Dakota Fanning and Teri Hatcher; Cary Fukunaga’s immigrant thriller Sin Nombre; Joel and Ethan Coen’s Burn After Reading, starring George Clooney, John Malkovich, Frances McDormand, and Brad Pitt; writer/director Jim Jarmusch’s new film, tentatively titled The Limits of Control, starring Isaach De Bankolé; and Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution, winner of the Best Picture [Golden Lion] Award at the 2007 Venice International Film Festival.
Focus Features is part of NBC Universal, one of the world’s leading media and entertainment companies in the development, production, and marketing of entertainment, news, and information to a global audience. Formed in May 2004 through the combining of NBC and Vivendi Universal Entertainment, NBC Universal owns and operates a valuable portfolio of news and entertainment networks, a premier motion picture company, significant television production operations, a leading television stations group, and world-renowned theme parks. NBC Universal is 80% owned by General Electric and 20% owned by Vivendi.