Wednesday, November 19th, 2008...9:49 am

Sean Penn stars in Harvey Milk biopic from Gus Van Sant

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“Milk,” a new film from director Gus Van Sant, focuses on the last eight years of the life of Harvey Milk, who — along with the late Allan Spear of Minnesota — became one of the first openly gay men elected to public office in the U.S., when he won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977. A New York Jew, Milk (played by Sean Penn) and his partner, Scott Smith (James Franco), relocate to San Francisco, where they open a shop, Castro Camera, in the heart of what would become an internationally famous gay neighborhood.

Sean Penn plays gay rights activist Harvey Milk. (Photo: Focus Features)

Sean Penn plays gay rights activist Harvey Milk. (Photo: Focus Features)

 After passage of Prop. 8 in California, and other such anti-gay marriage ballot measures across the country, “Milk,” which opens Nov. 26 at the Uptown Theatre, arrives at a politically fraught moment. — M.S.

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