'Milk' screenwriter reflects on film's challenges

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Dustin Lance Black arrives for the Academy Awards. (Matt Sayles/AP)


Dustin Lance Black, donning a white ribbon on his lapel in support of gay marriage, earned an Oscar tonight for "Milk," his original screenplay depicting the life and career of the country's first openly gay politician, Harvey Milk.

"Harvey gave me his story and it saved my life," he said.

Black described walking onstage to get the award as "an out of body experience."

It was a challenge to bring "Milk" to the screen, he said, but he and others were determined to see Milk's story told.

"When we started this journey, I was just charging hotel stays and gasoline on my credit card," he recalled. "There's no studio, things like that. Your dream is don't screw it up, first of all; and your second is, let's get it to a great director [Gus Van Sant].

"And I was fortunate and got it to Sean [Penn] and it just kept being the next thing in front of you. And then all of a sudden, four weeks ago was a nomination, and it's just sort of unbelievable. I don't quite believe it yet."

He said it all didn't seem real until he saw Penn on set for the first time dressed in costume and looking as Milk did in the 1970s.

"The moment we first saw Sean with his hair cut with the suit on, and he came in, onto the set, I was blown away at how much it reminded me of everything I'd heard and seen of Harvey," Black recalled.


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