Dustin Lance Black on His New Film, Obama, and Romney

Dustin Lance Black (Getty Images)

Milk’s Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black told The Observer that he was opposed to President Obama’s recent declaration of support for same-sex marriage. “Well, because I think marriage is between a man and a woman, I was incredibly upset,” Mr. Black said, biting a nail. He was joking, though in a quiet, grave tone–the premiere for his directorial debut, Virginia (starring Jennifer Connelly and out this Friday) had been the night before, and he was the worse for wear.

Mr. Black, whose career has included biopics of two of the most prominent queer politicians in history (the openly gay Harvey Milk, the closeted psychosexual morass of J. Edgar Hoover), said that he’d long believed Mr. Obama would come out in favor of gay marriage. In fact, the screenwriter had tried to force the issue. “I had two weeks earlier put a piece in the Hollywood Reporter saying that gay people might consider not supporting the president in the re-election campaign if he didn’t come out in favor. And I hit Romney hard in a way he deserved to be hit hard for his horrific stances on LGBT issues. And I said ‘we can’t be taken for granted anymore, we can’t vote for a less bad candidate.’

“And I took a lot of heat and I got beaten up for that, and I said, ‘It’s a hypothetical! I’m saying ‘If, then! If he doesn’t, then we might consider…’ You gotta ask for what you want in this world. And they were like, ‘He’ll never do it, it’s not a hypothetical.’ But he might do it!”

Mr. Black is now at work on a film adaptation of 8, about the legal struggle over Proposition 8 in California. The film’s to be directed by Rob Reiner. “It’s that Mormon thing,” said Mr. Black, who was raised in the Church of Latter-Day Saints and whose new film deals with life among Southern Mormons. “I’m industrious. Ambitious. I’m like the gay Mitt Romney… That’s a terrible thing to say.”

We mentioned that Virginia was less overtly political than Milk or J. Edgar, and asked if Mr. Black agreed with Godard’s belief that all film is political. “I agree with Godard and I agree with Oprah Winfrey. People are always asking ‘would you run for public office?’ And she says ‘I have so much more influence here.’ We get to tell human stories that have to do with human issues. At our best, we’re telling stories that have to do with problems in our country right now.”

Besides, he joked, we might have missed the point of the film altogether. ““Virginia is a real politician, she’s a gay man dressed as a woman. I thought of this as a sequel to Milk!”

daddario@observer.com :: @DPD_

Dustin Lance Black on His New Film, Obama, and Romney