Gus Van Sant When We Rise
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Gus Van Sant is boarding ABC’s gay rights movement miniseries “When We Rise” as an exec producer and director, Variety has learned. He will direct the first two-hour episode.

First announced in summer 2013, “When We Rise” has been in development for two and a half years. With Van Sant on board, the project is officially a go, and will soon head into production.

Van Sant’s appointment marks a reunion between the “Milk” director and Dustin Lance Black, who won an Oscar for writing the screenplay to the 2008 Harvey Milk biopic. Black is writing and exec producing “When We Rise” for ABC.

Along with Van Sant and Black, Laurence Mark and Bruce Cohen, who was also a producer on “Milk,” will serve as exec producers on the eight-hour miniseries, which hails from ABC Studios.

“When We Rise”chronicles the personal and political struggles, set-backs and triumphs of a diverse family of LGBT men and women who helped pioneer one of the last legs of the U.S. Civil Rights movement from its turbulent infancy in the 20th century to the once unfathomable successes of today. The period piece tells the history of the gay rights movement, starting with the Stonewall Riots in 1969.

The miniseries is an important passion project for Black, who was raised in a Mormon house in Texas. Since breaking out in Hollywood, the writer/producer has worked tirelessly for marriage equality and gay rights, and spoke of the matter, while delivering his acceptance speech at the 2009 Academy Awards.

Aside from “Milk,” which starred Sean Penn as the title character, Black’s other credits include Leonardo DiCaprio’s 2011 film “J. Edgar” and HBO’s “Big Love.” Most recently, Van Sant directed Matthew McConaughey’s “The Sea of Trees,” and most famously was at the helm of “Good Will Hunting.” On the TV side, Van Sant was an exec producer on Kelsey Grammer’s Starz series “Boss.”

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