May 2008 - Emile Hirsch reunites with the director of Into the Wild, Sean Penn, for the biopic Milk. Based on the true story of murdered San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk - the first openly gay man elected to public office - and directed by Gus Van Sant, Milk examines the events leading up to and surrounding Dan White's slaying of Supervisor Milk and Mayor Moscone in November 1978. Josh Brolin (No Country for Old Men) plays Dan White. White's defense attorneys tried to convince the jury their client acted irrationally because of his diet of junk food, an alibi which came to be known as 'The Twinkie Defense.'
At the press junket for the family-friend action movie Speed Racer, Hirsch talked about his role in the first non-documentary feature film to examine Milk's life and political career. "I play this guy Cleve Jones who was one of Harvey Milk's associates who's a gay rights activist who founded the AIDS quilt later on in his life," explained Hirsch.
Hirsch did his research before stepping into the role of Jones. "I read this book... We spent some time in San Francisco but also read this book called The [Life and] Times of Harvey Milk: The Mayor of Castro Street by Randy Shilts, which was really nice."
Hirsch also acknowledged that the documentary film, The Times of Harvey Milk, provided detailed information on Milk's life and career.
Sean Penn stepped in front of the camera for the lead role in Milk and Hirsch said he enjoyed spending time with Penn in a different capacity after having worked for him as the director of Into the Wild. "He wasn’t really telling me what to do, so it was kind of fun," said Hirsch.
And according to Hirsch it wasn't because of Penn that he landed a role in Milk. "[Sean] didn't call me about it. Gus did. I think he was probably like, 'Oh, I just spent nine months with that kid. I don't want to see him anymore. He's so annoying.' And then Gus was like, 'Please,'" joked Hirsch.