Close Encounters of the Celebrity Kind...
Josh Brolin Talks Milk
Expanded Edition of 11-26-08 Windy City Times Interview
by Richard Knight, Jr.
Brolin as Dan White, Harvey Milk's assassin in Milk
Milk star Josh Brolin who plays Dan White, the assassin of Harvey Milk and San Francisco mayor George Moscone in the film,
discussed the movie with Windy City Times. Excerpts:
Q: Is the story better served by a director who is openly gay and whether any of the characters are disserved being played by actors
who are not gay?
JB: Presumably. Because some people think everybody’s gay. I don’t but some people do (laughter in the room). Aside from
being gay I’m sure it lends to it. I’m sure the fact that Lance who did an amazing job writing the script the fact that he’s gay. The
fact that Dan Jenks and Bruce Cohen are gay (the producers) I think gave them a passion and this movie has been trying to get
made for so long gave them an extra connection, an intimate passion to get this movie made. That’s where I think it does lend to
it. I think Gus, whether he’s gay or not, I’m sure it helped but Gus has an incredible sensitivity. I’ve met gay people who are not
sensitive; I’ve met heterosexuals who are. That whole gay thing being sensitive and all that I don’t buy.
Sean might be gay, I don’t know (laughs). He would love to know that I said that (chuckles). I don’t think it matters. You try to
find the best actor. I think the only thing that’s a bummer and I do understand it a little bit is the fact that you have gay actors who
are still in the closet and can’t come out because they don’t want to be perceived as gay actors. That’s still a messy thing that we’re
in and I don’t know if we’ll ever get out of it.
Q: Oliver Stone, Gus Van Sant, what’s the difference in the approach?
JB: One is gay; one is not (THE ROOM LAUGHS). There’s actually not a lot in my experience. Oliver let me do my thing. What I
did with Bush I brought. What he did with the movie that’s what he brought. What I did with Dan White I brought and what Gus did
with that he tweaked. They both tweaked my performance. They’re both very similar in that way. I think Gus is a lot quieter than
Oliver. They’re both brilliant filmmakers. The Coen Brothers are the same way, Ridley Scott is the same way. As is Robert
Rodriguez. They all have that same through line of focusing on story. They’re obsessed with story; they’re obsessed with
characters; with behaviors, with emotions. Not a lot of ego with any of them.
Q: Do you think White was a closet case as Harvey Milk suggests in the film?
JB: I don’t know. I don’t know.
Q: Did you play it that way?
JB: No. No but if I did there was only one place that I might have but it was more about the need to connect with somebody and
resenting myself knowing that I had the need to connect and that was during the scene in the lobby between Sean and I which was
written as a very straight scene. I was just supposed to be late for his birthday and then give him a bottle of alcohol and then I said
to Gus, “What if I drank the alcohol before I got there” and then we started playing with that and then it sort of had a life of it’s own
and Sean looked worried which was actually very sweet, actually. It’s possible but it’s possible for anybody. You don’t know. Is
there a connection between homophobia and latent homosexuality? I don’t know. I can only speak for myself. I have no problem
with it. I’ve been around gay people my whole life. It doesn’t bother me; it doesn’t bother me for my kids to be around gay
people. It just doesn’t bother me. If they try to…it might bother me a little bit but that’s anybody whether you’re gay or
heterosexual, you’re always looking out for that. So I don’t see it as creepy or weird and I’ve known so many people that are so
happy in those relationships, that’s all that matters to me.
Q: How did he kill himself and what was the status of his marriage?
JB: He slept on the couch a lot. I don’t want to tell you too much because I know a little too much. But I do know that he slept on
the couch a lot, that there was some strife, that he was not welcomed back to San Francisco, that he forced himself back. I do know
that he got seven years and got out in five and then he came home and 18 months later he killed himself by putting a hose in the
tailpipe and he had an Irish ballad going about how much he loved the city; going on a loop in the car. It was sad, you know?
Q: How do you feel about the movie coming out with Proposition 8 happening at the same time?
JB: There’s a grand parallel and you feel like you’ve evolved but you feel like the gay society has become more mainstream and
then something like this happens which was a huge surprise for me.
Q: Can I bring it back to Hollywood actors not being out or being afraid to be out. Harvey’s strategy was so clearly, “People have to
know who we are. We’re your brother, your mother, your everything.” I don’t think there’s a major male star out at this point. Do
you feel like that might have made a difference and that Harvey was right?
JB: Harvey was an anomaly and that’s why there’s a movie about Harvey Milk and not closeted whoever it is. It takes a certain
mentality, a certain heart, a certain passion, a certain wherewithal. Dan White didn’t have that.
Q: Did you find any parallels between Bush and Dan White?
JB: No (laughs). No, other than one is very minutely involved on a small scale and one affects the entire earth. No, honestly.
Q: Your step-mother is like the ultimate gay icon – are you aware of your gay following – because you know, you have one?
JB: No, that’s great. Any following is great. I mean except for a Satanic following (BIG LAUGHS IN THE ROOM). She’s the great gay
WCT: She is.
JB: Why though? Is it the music?
WCT: It’s because she’s the ultimate individual.
JB: She’s the ultimate individual?
Q: Didn’t you know that?
JB: It doesn’t matter what I know. I’m going to tell her you said that because that’s amazing. That’s like the greatest compliment
you could ever get.
Q: When are you and your wife (Diane Lane) going to do something together?
JB: Never. We could never do it. We would spend so much money on outtakes because we would laugh and laugh and laugh. It
would be a complete and total failure. I think couples who start out meeting in movies and all that have a much easier time doing
that. I don’t think we could ever imagine doing that.
Check the Archives for other Milk Interviews with cast members and historical consultant Cleve Jones