On Set With The Men Behind Milk

9.29.2008

By Michael Joseph Gross

While filming a campaign victory celebration scene, for example, Sean Penn 'got off his motorcycle, and he was very excited, and he started kissing people, kissing these extras on the way in,' Jinks recalled. 'Afterward, there were all these male extras that said, 'Oh, my God, Sean Penn just kissed me!'' (Van Sant said that another scene, in which Penn and Franco share a long, deep, hungry kiss, was inspired by a Douglas Gordon video installation called The Kiss, which he sent Penn and Franco to watch together.)

Milk depicts a lot more than kissing, though. The sex scenes are every bit as erotic and explicit as such scenes in To Die For or Van Sant's other films. And though Van Sant seemed completely comfortable talking about these scenes, Jinks said, 'If people walk out of our movie talking about sex scenes, we would have failed in our goals for the movie.'

'By the same token,' Cohen offered, 'if people walk out talking about the lack of sex scenes, ' la Philadelphia, we would also fail.' Milk, he pointed out, marks a major turning point in Hollywood's depiction of the place of sex in gay characters' lives: 'It's the first studio film where the sex scenes with gay men are in the same places and exactly the same amount as they would be with straight characters.'

Read James Franco's interview with Milk screenwriter Dustin Lance Black here.

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