Oscar Backstage: Dustin Lance Black & Sean Penn Have a Message For Obama


After Milk screenwriter Dustin Lance Black and star Sean Penn got done thanking the Academy for honoring their work, they made their requisite trips back to the press room to answer questions from eager reporters. Let’s tune in:

Dustin Lance Black: (wearing a WhiteKnot.org ribbon)

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• Obama should “repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and DOMA, but I do think that for inspiration for the gay community we need to look not to the Proposition 8s but dream bigger and look back to 1964 and the Civil Rights Act, because no group has ever won full civil rights in this country by going state-by-state or county-by-county.”

• “I had an idea [of what I was going to say during the acceptance speech]. For me the whole thing was always to sort of ‘Pay it forward.’ Harvey gave me his story and it saved my life, and I just thought it’s time to pass it on. The only thing I really knew I wanted to say was to tell those kids out there that they’re gonna be all right.”

• At what point did he think Milk could grab the attention of the Academy? “It was the moment that we first saw Sean, with his haircut, with a suit on, and he came in on to the set. And I was blown away at how much it reminded me of everything I’d heard and seen of Harvey. And I looked out and turned to Cleve, ‘My God, that’s him, isn’t it?’ And Cleve was outside smoking manically going, ‘Oh my god, I’ve seen a ghost.'”

Sean Penn:

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• “To see this culture of ignorance and it breeds this kind of hateful expression that these people had the signs outside essentially telling you that you’re less than human … There’s nothing more important than the themes of this movie … To be part of something like that’s a privilege.”

• “We know [Obama’s] public position in terms of the specific issue of gay marriage has not been officially supportive of that. I would like to believe that’s a political stand right now and not necessarily a future one or felt one. I don’t think that he, that any of us and in particular our president, will long be able to take that position. It’s inevitable … because it’s not a human luxury. These are human needs, and it will be gotten. … Right now I’m more focused, more interested in what we’re going to do to tell him that we will support him in taking those kind of initiatives.”