While it was perfectly understandable that the actor who played Harvey Milk – Sean Penn – received the majority of acclaim from critics, he was surrounded by an incredible cast of supporting actors.
Director Gus Van Sant was smart to fill out his biopic about assassinated political activist Harvey Milk with such a great cast, and James Franco was undoubtedly a highlight as Scott Smith, Milk’s onetime lover who moves with him to San Francisco during the first act and helps him start his political career as a gay rights activist.
Unlike many of his co-stars, the actor didn’t have an awful lot of archival material to base his performance on, despite the fact that Smith played a pivotal role in the life of Harvey Milk. Even so, his presence was a memorable one, and he never resorted to simple homosexual stereotypes in portraying Milk’s lover. This helped make the fact that he and Penn being openly gay characters was far from a big deal (as it shouldn’t be in this day and age, but obviously was at the time these events took place). As a result, Penn and Franco were even nominated for “Best Kiss” at the MTV Movie Awards.