GUS VAN SANT DIRECTING SEAN PENN AS HARVEY MILK;
SUPPORT. CAST SET; DAN JINKS, BRUCE COHEN PRODUCING;
FOCUS FEATURES AND GROUNDSWELL PRODUCTIONS
CO-PRODUCTION TO BE RELEASED WORLDWIDE BY FOCUS
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NEW YORK, January 18, 2008 – Production begins next week on location in San Francisco on the biographical drama Milk, to star Academy Award winner Sean Penn as gay-rights icon Harvey Milk for Academy Award-nominated director Gus Van Sant. Joining Mr. Penn in the cast are Emile Hirsch, Josh Brolin, Diego Luna, Victor Garber, Lucas Grabeel, Denis O’Hare, Alison Pill, Stephen Spinella, and James Franco. The announcement was made today by Focus Features president of production John Lyons.
Milk is being produced by Dan Jinks and Bruce Cohen, the Academy Award-winning producers of American Beauty, through The Jinks/Cohen Company. Milk is a co-production between Groundswell Productions and Focus Features, which are also co-financing the film. Milk will be distributed worldwide by Focus.
Executive-producing the film are Groundswell’s Bruna Papandrea, Milk unit production manager Barbara A. Hall, William Horberg, and Dustin Lance Black (Big Love), who wrote the original screenplay. Groundswell CEO Michael London will also serve in a producing capacity.
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 is the first non-documentary feature to explore the man’s life and career.
Mr. Hirsch (who was directed by Mr. Penn in Into the Wild) is portraying Cleve Jones, who was an activist on the front lines with Mr. Milk and who is a historical consultant to Milk. Mr. Brolin (of No Country for Old Men) is cast as Mr. White. Mr. Luna (Y tu mamá también) plays Jack Lira, Mr. Milk’s second lover in the film. Mr. Garber (Alias) is cast as Mayor Moscone. Mr. Grabeel (High School Musical) is portraying Danny Nicoletta, a
friend and supporter of Mr. Milk’s. Tony Award winners Mr. O’Hare and Mr. Spinella are playing, respectively, state senator John Briggs and attorney/city supervisor candidate Rick Stokes. Ms. Pill (Dan in Real Life) is cast as Anne Kronenberg, a close friend and political aide to Mr. Milk, and Mr. Franco (the Spider-Man movies) is portraying Scott Smith, Mr. Milk’s first lover in the film and his campaign manager.
Mr. Lyons said, “Harvey Milk has been an inspiration to a generation. Now, a new generation will hear, and learn from, his story. The caliber of the artists coming together to make this film, entirely in San Francisco, ensures that a hero’s legacy will be respected.”
Focus Features International is handling overseas sales for the movie. Kahli Small, Focus senior vice president, production, is supervising for Mr. Lyons.
Harris Savides, in his fifth feature collaboration with Mr. Van Sant, is the cinematographer on Milk. Bill Groom, whose previous credits include The Pledge (directed by Mr. Penn), is the production designer on the film. Danny Glicker, whose credits include Transamerica and Towelhead, has joined Milk as the costume designer.
Gus Van Sant has directed such films as Mala Noche (a restored version of which was re-released last 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 Festival), Elephant (which won the top prize, the Palme d’Or, at the 2003 Cannes International Film Festival), and Paranoid Park (which will be released in March).
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 post-production on Appaloosa, for New Line, with Ed Harris directing and starring opposite Renée Zellweger and Viggo Mortensen; and The Marc Pease Experience, for Paramount Vantage, directed by Todd Louiso and starring Jason Schwartzman and Ben Stiller. This month, Groundswell is world-premiering 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, at the Sundance Film Festival; Smart People, directed by Noam Murro and starring Dennis Quaid, Thomas Haden Church, Ellen Page, and Sarah Jessica Parker, will be released by Miramax Films this spring; and The Visitor, a co-production with Participant Productions, from writer/director Tom McCarthy and starring Richard Jenkins, will be released this spring by Overture Films.
Focus Features (www.focusfeatures.com
In addition to Milk, current and upcoming Focus Features releases include Joe Wright’s Atonement, winner of 2 Golden Globe Awards including Best Picture [Drama]; Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges, starring Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, and Ralph Fiennes, which is world-premiering this week as the Opening-Night film of the 2008 Sundance Film Festival; 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 3-D 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.