Dustin Lance Black

Dustin Lance Black

Dustin Lance Black at the 81st Academy Awards
Born (1974-06-10) June 10, 1974[1]
Sacramento, California
Occupation Screenwriter, film director, film producer
Nationality American
Alma mater UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television '96
Notable works Big Love (2006–2009)
Milk (2008)
8 (2011)
Notable awards Academy Awards
Best Original Screenplay
2008 Milk
Partner Tom Daley (2013–present; engaged)

Dustin Lance Black (born June 10, 1974)[1][2] is an American screenwriter, director, film and television producer and LGBT rights activist. He has won a Writers Guild of America Award and an Academy Award for the 2008 film Milk.

Black is a founding board member of the American Foundation for Equal Rights[3] and writer of 8, a staged reenactment of the federal trial that led to a federal court's overturn of California's Proposition 8.[4]

Early life

Black was born in Sacramento, California[5] and grew up in a Mormon household,[6] in San Antonio, Texas, and later moved to Salinas, California, when his mother remarried.[7][8] His natural father had earlier been the Mormon missionary who had baptized Black's mother.[7][9]

Growing up surrounded by Mormon culture and military bases, Black worried about his sexuality. When he found himself attracted to a boy in his neighborhood at the age of six or seven, he told himself "I'm going to hell. And if I ever admit it, I'll be hurt, and I'll be brought down".[7] He says that his "acute awareness" of his sexuality made him dark, shy and at times suicidal. He came out in his senior year of college.[7]

While attending North Salinas High School, Black began to work in theater at The Western Stage in Salinas-Monterey, California,[7] and later worked on productions including Bare at Hollywood's Hudson Main Stage Theater.[10] Black attended the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Theater, Film, and Television (UCLA) while apprenticing with stage directors, taking acting jobs and working on theater lighting crews.[11] He graduated with honors from UCLA's School of Theater, Film and Television in 1996.


In 2000, Black wrote and directed The Journey of Jared Price, a gay romance film, and Something Close to Heaven, a gay coming-of-age short film. In 2001, he directed and was a subject in the documentary On the Bus about a Nevada road trip and adventure at Burning Man taken by six gay men.[6] Raised as Mormon, he was hired as the only such writer on the HBO drama series Big Love about a polygamous family. He has written for all seasons, serving on season one as a staff writer, executive story editor in season two, and was promoted again, to co-producer, for season three.[9][11][12]

Black had first visited San Francisco in the early 1990s, while AIDS was devastating the city's gay community. Black said that, "Hearing about Harvey was about the only hopeful story there was at the time."[13] He had first viewed Rob Epstein's documentary The Times of Harvey Milk when he was in college, and thought, "I just want to do something with this, why hasn't someone done something with this?"[7] Researching Milk's life for three years,[11] Black met with Milk's former aides Cleve Jones and Anne Kronenberg, as well as former San Francisco Mayor Art Agnos,[13] and began to write a feature film screenplay encompassing the events of Milk's life.[7] The screenplay was written on spec,[14] but Black showed the script to Jones, who passed it on to his friend Gus Van Sant, who signed on to direct the feature.[13] Black is an old friend of Milk producer Dan Jinks, who signed on to the biopic after he called Black to congratulate him and discovered that the project did not have a confirmed producer.[15]

Black's film Pedro, profiling the life of AIDS activist and reality television personality Pedro Zamora, premiered at the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival. Coming up, Paris Barclay is slated to direct his screenplay A Life Like Mine and Gus Van Sant is set to direct his film adaptation of Tom Wolfe's book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. Black directed his own script Virginia, starring Jennifer Connelly.

On February 22, 2009, Black won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for Milk at the 81st Academy Awards. He wore a White Knot to the ceremony as a symbol of solidarity with the marriage equality movement.[16]

On October 11, 2009, Black marched in the National Equality March and delivered a speech in front of the United States Capitol to an estimated crowd of 200,000 LGBT rights activists.

In 2010, Black narrated 8: The Mormon Proposition, a documentary about the involvement of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) in California's Proposition 8. Black accepted the award for best documentary for 8:The Mormon Proposition at the GLAAD Media awards in San Francisco and spoke out on discrimination in the LDS Church and meeting with the church to make it more LGBT-inclusive.[8][17]

Black wrote the screenplay for J. Edgar, a biographical drama released November 11, 2011, directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

In 2011, Black wrote the play 8, which portrays the actual events in the Hollingsworth v. Perry trial and the testimony which led to the overturn of California's Proposition 8. He created the play in response to the federal court's refusal to allow release of video recordings from the trial and to give the public a true account of what transpired in the courtroom.[18] It is written and performed using original transcripts from the trial and journalist records, along with first-hand interviews of the people involved. "8" first opened at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre in New York City on September 19, 2011, and later broadcast to a worldwide audience on YouTube from the Ebell of Los Angeles Theatre on March 3, 2012.[19][20]

The American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) and Broadway Impact, sponsors of "8", have now released and licensed the play for readings nationwide on college campuses and in community theaters free of charge.[21][22][23][24]

Black appears as himself in the documentary film Hollywood to Dollywood (2012).

Personal life

Black was the top entry on a list of openly gay influential people in The Advocate's "Forty under 40" issue of June/July 2009.[25] He was featured on the cover of the magazine. He was one of the Official Grand Marshals in the 2009 NYC LGBT Pride March, produced by Heritage of Pride joining Anne Kronenberg and Cleve Jones.[26]

On January 24, 2012, Black's brother Marcus died of cancer.[27][28]

Black has been in a relationship with British Olympic diver Tom Daley since 2013.[29] They live together in London.[30] In October 2015, it was announced that Black and Daley had become engaged.[31]

In 2014, Black was one of eight potential commencement speakers invited by Pasadena City College, and he accepted. After school officials learned of nude pictures of Black that were stolen and leaked online five years prior, the college announced that Black had not been officially invited and that the unofficial invitation was "an honest error".[32] Following talks between Black's and PCC's attorneys, the college board of trustees apologized and formally invited him.[33]


Year Title Role Notes
2000 Something Close to Heaven Director/Screenplay Short film
The Journey of Jared Price Director/Screenplay
2001 On the Bus Director/Producer/Editor/Cinematographer Documentary
2003 Faking It (US version) Director

Producer (4 episodes):

  • "Toolbelt to Toile"
  • "Polo to Wrangler"
  • "Six Pack to Chardonnay"
  • "Drag Racer to Drag Queen"
My Life with Count Dracula Director/Producer/Editor Documentary
The President's Memorial Award
Kiss and Tell Editor Short film
The Singing Forest Editor/Actor as Bill
2004 Faking It Director (1 episode):
  • "Sheep Shearer to Hair Stylist"
2006–2009 Big Love As Writer (5 episodes):
  • "The Baptism"
  • "Reunion"
  • "Kingdom Come"
  • "Oh, Pioneers"
  • "Empire" (Story and Screenplay)

As Co-producer (5 episodes):

  • "Block Party"
  • "Empire"
  • "Prom Queen"
  • "On Trial"
  • "For Better or Worse"
2008 Pedro Story and Screenplay Nominated–Writers Guild of America Award for Television Long Form – Original
Nominated–Humanitas Prize for 90 Minute Category
Milk Screenplay Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay
Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Screenplay
Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association Award for Best Screenplay
Independent Spirit Award for Best First Screenplay
San Francisco Film Critics Circle Award for Best Original Screenplay
Writers Guild of America Award for Best Original Screenplay
Hollywood Film Festival for Screenwriter of the Year
PEN Center USA Literary Award for Screenplay
Nominated–BAFTA Award for Best Original Screenplay
Nominated–Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Writer
Nominated–Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Original Screenplay
Nominated–Online Film Critics Society Award for Best Original Screenplay
Nominated–Satellite Award for Best Original Screenplay
Nominated–Humanitas Prize for Feature Film Category
2010 Virginia Director/Screenplay
2011 8 Writer
J. Edgar Screenplay
2017 When We Rise Creator/Writer/Producer

Director (2 episodes)


Other awards


  1. 1 2 "Dustin Lance Black". United States Public Records, 1970-2009. Retrieved 22 April 2016.
  2. Adams, Char (February 29, 2016). "Dustin Lance Black Tells Sam Smith to 'Stop Texting My Fiancé' After Suggesting He's the First Openly Gay Oscar Winner". People. Retrieved February 29, 2016. The 41-year-old screenwriter...
  3. "About: Board of Directors". American Foundation For Equal Rights. Retrieved March 4, 2012.
  4. "About 8 the play". 8 official website. Retrieved March 4, 2012.
  5. "Meet Mr. Black: Oscar-winning Milk screenwriter Dustin Lance Black refuses to settle for anything less than full LGBT equality.: Feature Story section: Metro Weekly magazine". Metroweekly.com. 2010-01-21. Retrieved 2013-12-04.
  6. 1 2 Kim, Chuck (June 25, 2002). "Sex, guys, and videotape: "reality" filmmaker Dustin Lance Black talks about turning the camera on himself—and on five young gay men out for fun—in On the Bus". The Advocate.
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Lamble, David (February 21, 2008). "How he got Milk". Bay Area Reporter. Retrieved July 24, 2008.
  8. 1 2 "Cast & Crew: Dustin Lance Black". Focus Features. Retrieved November 15, 2008.
  9. 1 2 Frei, Darren (June 6, 2006). "Polygamy, gays, and TV". The Advocate (964): 4.
  10. Martinez, Julio (October 25, 2000). "Theater Review: Bare". Variety. Retrieved July 25, 2008.
  11. 1 2 3 Nichols, Larry (October 2, 2008). "Milk-ing the Silver Screen". Metro Weekly. Retrieved November 15, 2008.
  12. Ferber, Lawrence. "Love To Love You, Chloe". Genre. Archived from the original on May 16, 2008. Retrieved July 25, 2008.
  13. 1 2 3 Winn, Steven (January 30, 2008). "Picturing Harvey Milk: Filming of movie evokes memories, emotions in the Castro". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved July 25, 2008.
  14. Goldstein, Patrick (June 11, 2008). "A passion project gets beaten to the punch". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 25, 2008.
  15. Garrett, Diane (November 18, 2007). "Van Sant's 'Milk' pours first". Variety. Retrieved July 25, 2008.
  16. NIKKI FINKE, Editor in Chief. "White Knot Oscars And Spirit Awards Lists". Deadline.com. Retrieved 2013-12-04.
  17. "GLAAD Media Awards: See Dustin Lance Black, Naya Rivera and Mario Lopez at the San Francisco event".
  18. "Rick Santorum Has Lied on Gay Rights, Dustin Lance Black Claims". ontopmag.com. Retrieved March 13, 2012.
  19. Ng, David (March 4, 2012). "George Clooney, Brad Pitt lead all-star Prop. 8 play reading". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 11, 2012.
  20. "Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Martin Sheen headline West Coast premiere of marriage-rights play". Associated Press via The Washington Post. March 4, 2012. Retrieved March 11, 2012.
  21. "8: Stage A Reading". 8theplay.com. Retrieved March 8, 2012.
  22. Riel, Elizabeth; Hersh, Brandon (February 15, 2012). "Complete All-Star Cast for West Coast Premiere of Dustin Lance Black's "8" Announced" (Press release). American Foundation for Equal Rights. Retrieved March 4, 2012.
  23. Kennedy, Mark (January 17, 2012). "'8,' Dustin Lance Black Gay Marriage Play, Goes National During 2012". The Huffington Post. Retrieved March 11, 2012.
  24. Hernandez, Greg. "Dustin Lance Black's Prop. 8 play set for U.S. colleges: At least 40 schools will put on productions of 8 this year". gaystarnews.com. Retrieved March 11, 2012.
  25. Forty Under 40: Dustin Lance Black
  26. "Gay Pride Events - NYC Pride - Heritage of Pride".
  27. "2012 January". Dustin Lance Black. Retrieved 2013-12-04.
  28. Hernandez, Greg (2012-01-30). "Condolences to Dustin Lance Black & his family". Greginhollywood.com. Retrieved 2013-12-04.
  29. "Tom Daley Talks 'Crazy' Attention On His Relationship With Dustin Lance Black". The Huffington Post. 2014-05-02. Retrieved 2014-05-04.
  30. Malec, Brett (2014-05-02). "Tom Daley and Boyfriend Dustin Lance Black Move in Together in London". E! Online. Retrieved 2014-05-04.
  31. Khomami, Nadia (2015-10-01). "Tom Daley announces engagement to film-maker Dustin Lance Black". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2016-03-01.
  32. Abcarian, Robin (April 21, 2014). "Pasadena college sorry for rescinding Dustin Lance Black invitation". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on February 10, 2016. Retrieved March 1, 2016.
  33. Abcarian, Robin (May 1, 2014). "College that spurned Dustin Lance Black over sex tape wants him backl". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on January 24, 2016. Retrieved March 1, 2016.
  34. By Teri Bond, Oscar-winning 'Milk' screenwriter to be honored at UCLA film festival event, UCLA Newsroom, June 4, 2009
  35. LGBT Graduation 2009 - Distinguished Service Award, Dustin Lance Black, UCLA on YouTube
  36. "Nominees & Winners for the 81st Academy Awards | Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences". Oscars.org. 2012-08-24. Retrieved 2013-12-04.
  37. "Awards Dinner". EchoMag.com. Retrieved 2013-12-04.
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