Gay for a Day — We were Harvey Milk extras!
Posted on March 9, 2008 by Chris Nelson
Woowoo! Today Chris and I spent the day getting kinda sunburnt and cheering ourselves hoarse in front of Sean Penn* for the new Gus Van Sant movie Milk, a biopic on Harvey Milk, California’s first openly gay elected official. I have no idea if we’re even visible, but we’re about three rows behind the “professional crowd” actors in their finest 70s regalia and hair-do’s. You might be able to see Chris, since he’s tall, but I was lost in the sea of happy screamers, happily screaming.
The scene was filmed in front of San Francisco City Hall, depicting Gay Freedom Day in June 1978 when the now ubiquitous symbolic rainbow flag was first unveiled, and boy it’s a biggie banner, unfurled by shirtless pretty boys with six-packs who the crowd balked as “not hairy enough for the 70s”, but the girls in front of us were lottery-picking which one they’d like to sleep with the most. The crowd was a mixture of people who were actual Milk ralliers and those of us who weren’t even alive or even conceived of being conceived in 1978. We missed the two other en masse shoots of the Pride Parade and Milk’s candlelight vigil (recreating followers’ reactions to Milk’s assassination), but we heard the latter was really drawn and emotional and went into the wee hours when they closed down Market Street (the main thoroughfare through downtown) around midnight.
Even though Chris and I were only two out of the small handful who recognized Gus Van Sant (when he uttered a few soft-spoken words into the microphone to thank everyone, there were many puzzled faces and scattered applause), I was soooooo excited to see him in action in person, and with a steadicam on his shoulder for one intensely close-up shot of Sean!. Also it was awesome to see Harris Savides, his longtime Director of Photography and possibly the most talented DP alive, scurrying around with his light meter doohickey, looking stern. Also in attendance was Cleve Jones, Harvey Milk’s intern, who proffered some historical factoids. Good stuff.
Look for Milk in theatres this Fall.
*Backing Sean Penn’s massive talent is Emile Hirsch, Diego Luna, with Josh Brolin as Milk’s assassin and James Franco as Milk’s lover.