Dustin Lance Black, Inspired By Harvey Milk

Dustin Lance Black's original screenplay for Milk has been nominated for an Oscar.

In Nov. 2008, the writer and producer spoke with Fresh Air about his background in the Mormon church and Harvey Milk's inspirational influence.

This interview originally aired on Nov. 20, 2008.

'Milk' Screenwriter: Harvey Helped Me Come Out

Dustin Lance Black i i

Dustin Lance Black spent three seasons with HBO's polygamy-in-Utah dramedy Big Love — and was the only Mormon writer on the show's staff. Kevin Winter/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Kevin Winter/Getty Images
Dustin Lance Black

Dustin Lance Black spent three seasons with HBO's polygamy-in-Utah dramedy Big Love — and was the only Mormon writer on the show's staff.

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Sean Penn stars in Gus Van Sant's new biopic Milk — the story of an out gay politician who inspired a community with his courage, and whose 1978 murder made headlines across the country.

Screenwriter Dustin Lance Black says he was among those for whom Harvey Milk made a real difference.

Born to Mormon parents, he grew up amid the military communities of San Antonio, Texas. He says Milk's story, when he finally learned about it, helped him summon the courage to come out to his family and friends.

"Texas kept me very quiet," Black told the Bay Area Reporter in February. "I became intensely shy, I had thoughts of suicide. I was a pretty dark kid, because I had an acute awareness of my sexuality, and was absolutely convinced that I was wrong."

But in the mid-1990s, Black told the BAR, he saw Rob Epstein's Oscar-winning documentary The Times of Harvey Milk.

"In his Hope Speech, Harvey Milk says, 'There's that kid in San Antonio, and he heard tonight that a gay man was elected to public office, and that will give him hope.' And when I first heard that speech, it really did that. It really, really gave me hope, for the first time."

Black, who's been a writer on the HBO series Big Love, also wrote a documentary about Pedro Zamora, the out gay Cuban-American AIDS activist who became famous as a third-season cast member on MTV's The Real World.

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