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Dustin Lance Black talks about ‘Milk’ screenplay

May 18th, 2009 · No Comments · Screenwriter Chat

dustin-lance-black1First-time feature film writer Dustin Lance Black chats about his award winning screenplay “Milk.”

Condensing Harvey Milk’s life into a movie.

Black – That was the hardest part. I had, like a mountain of research and Harvey’s life is fantastic, his twenties, and thirties – all of the stories, and after he was assassinated, the story of his trial was fantastic.  So I just had to look at it and make tough decisions and say, I know I’m going to lose these things that feel like my babies, these stories that I love so much, but if I bite off too much I’m not going to be able to go deep enough that people are going to care personally. So I just took a shot and said I’d just do his time in San Francisco.

What prompted him to write the screenplay?

Black – My step dad was in the army and transferred to the bay area from Texas, so I grew up in this very conservative, Mormon household in Texas – not a great place to be gay. And I had a theater director there who sat a few of us down and told us a story about a gay person. I said, wow, what’s that? That’s a scary thing to me. But he said, “No, no this guy was celebrated by his city, elected to public office, and beloved.” And it was such a hopeful story. And, I just thought, we’re losing that. He’s one of our great heroes and forefathers and it’s so dangerous if you lose your history.

On his adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s ‘The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.’

Black – It’s a tough one – I’m still going through drafts of it. Because his [Tom Wolfe] language makes the book so beautiful and it’s the thing you can’t really grab and put into a film, so you have to find a style of your own to try and capture that same energy without those beautiful words.

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