Sean Penn heads all-star cast in film about Harvey Milk's life

CELEBRITY NEWS

August 05, 2008|By LIZ SMITH | LIZ SMITH,Tribune Media Services

We are on the verge of receiving a movie titled Milk. It will open Oct. 29 in the Castro District of San Francisco with a great cast playing the roles of the real-life protagonists in the story of the late Harvey Milk.

In case you've forgotten, Milk was the first openly gay city supervisor of San Francisco. He was assassinated, along with Mayor George Moscone, in 1978, becoming a martyr to the cause against sexual discrimination. The 1984 documentary The Times of Harvey Milk won an Academy Award and was then made into an opera. But this is the feature film, and what a cast!

That mighty male Sean Penn plays Harvey Milk.

Josh Brolin assays his killer, Dan White. James Franco and Diego Luna are two of Milk's former boyfriends, Emile Hirsch plays an aide, Stephen Spinella is Harvey's political rival, Denis O'Hare portrays the real-life Sen. John Briggs and my longtime friend Howard Rosenman is the self-described "rich, arrogant, Jewish New York bully, owner of The Advocate and a gay kingmaker for the Democrats."

Living the dream

I probably should explain about Howard Rosenman, who came to lunch with me the other day. He enthusiastically arrived direct from his good friend downtown, Diane von Furstenberg, en route to a business meeting that might turn into a project for Madonna. And he was also about to have a drink with the good-looking decorator Kitty Hawks, to whom he'd once been engaged.

Howard has been living a high-powered dream since he left med school to "get into show business."

He started out co-writing the little movie Sparkle, went on to produce Barbra Streisand in The Main Event, did the celebrated Resurrection, starring Ellen Burstyn, then Steve Martin's Father of the Bride. He produced the AIDS documentary Common Threads, which won an Oscar and a Peabody, and also The Celluloid Closet, a documentary on gays in film, which also won a Peabody Award.

Focus Features will give Milk a general release in November. The men behind it are Michael London, Bruce Cohen and Dan Jinks, who won an Oscar for American Beauty. The director is the celebrated Gus Van Sant.

When I teased Howard about becoming a movie actor, he invited me to be his date in L.A., should he make it as an Academy Award nominee for his acting in Milk. (Stranger things have happened.)

Closing the book

As he approached 65, the phenomenon that is Mick Jagger canceled his contract to do a book about his life. Now Robert Downey Jr. is doing the same.

The sizzling star of Iron Man signed up with HarperCollins last year but now he is handing back his advance. Maybe he feels there are just too many of those "how I came back from addiction" memoirs out there. And with Iron Man such a hit - sequels to follow! - Robert may also feel he doesn't need to write about himself to remind people he's around. He's seen it all, he's still here and he's a big deal again, my dears.

What would Harry think?

It's a bit mind-boggling to think of the charming girl heroine, Hermione of the Harry Potter films, now hanging out with the likes of the Prince of Wales and his up-and-coming crew. ... But Emma Watson is doing just that. And dahling, she looks glamorous and mahvelous.

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