I like doing period pieces, and they’re really fun to do for all the different departments,” says helmer Gus Van Sant. “But it’s so hard to get it all really accurate, and great to see when done really well. Luckily I had (production designer) Bill Groom and (costume designer) Danny Glicker, and they did a great job of re-creating San Francisco and the Castro District of the ‘70s.”
Groom, who had previously collaborated with “Milk” star Sean Penn on “The Pledge” and “The Indian Runner” and Glicker (“Towelhead,” “Transamerica”), used extensive research to help focus Van Sant’s intentionally “austere framing” of the tragic story.
“Bill and Danny pored through the gay and lesbian archives in San Francisco and got a lot of ideas from the still photographs there, as well as from Harvey Milk’s own personal photographs,” says Van Sant. “And Robert Stone had produced a film about Patty Hearst, and I was using that as a reference as far as lighting and camerawork.
“We put the original exteriors back on a lot of places and re-created awnings that were similar to the original ones, but most of the architecture was pretty much the same, which helped a lot.”