November 19, 2007 / 7:32 AM / 11 years ago

Sean Penn playing gay-rights leader in "Milk"

Sean Penn poses at Leicester Square during the London film festival October 25, 2007. REUTERS/Anthony Harvey

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - “Milk,” one of two long-gestating biopics about slain gay-rights leader Harvey Milk, will begin principal photography in January on location in San Francisco.

Sean Penn will star in the title role for director Gus Van Sant’s feature, which is being handled by Focus Features.

The Universal division had been in negotiations to come aboard “Milk” as early as the summer. At the time, Matt Damon was attached to co-star as Milk’s assassin Dan White, but he pulled out in mid-September because of scheduling conflicts.

“Matt Damon was not attached when Focus came on board to acquire the project,” a Focus spokesperson said.

The green light gives “Milk” the advantage over the big-screen version of Randy Shilts’ 1982 Milk biography “The Mayor of Castro Street,” which has been in development for more than 15 years. Director Bryan Singer is attached.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

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