Dustin Lance Black

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Dustin Lance Black
Black at the Web Summit 2017
Born (1974-06-10) June 10, 1974 (age 49)[1]
EducationUniversity of California, Los Angeles (BA)
Occupation(s)Screenwriter, film director, film producer
Years active2000–present
Notable workBig Love (2006–09)
Milk (2008)
8 (2011)
Board member ofAmerican Foundation for Equal Rights
(m. 2017)

Dustin Lance Black (born June 10, 1974)[1] is an American screenwriter, director, producer, and LGBT rights activist. He is known for writing the film Milk, for which he won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay in 2009. He has also subsequently written the screenplays for the film J. Edgar and the 2022 crime miniseries Under the Banner of Heaven.

Black is a founding board member of the American Foundation for Equal Rights[2] and writer of 8, a staged reenactment of the federal trial that led to a federal court's overturn of California's Proposition 8.[3]

Early life[edit]

Black's father Raul Garrison walked out on his polio-stricken mother,[4] Roseanna, and his two brothers, Marcus Raul and Todd Bryant, when he was young. They grew up in a Mormon household,[5][6] first in San Antonio, Texas, before moving to Salinas, California.[7][8]

Growing up in his family's Mormon culture and living on 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[7] and later worked on productions including Bare at Hollywood's Hudson Main Stage Theater.[9] 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.[10] He graduated with honors 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 served on season one as a staff writer, executive story editor in season two, and was promoted again, to co-producer, for season three.[10][11][12]

Black 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,[10] 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.

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.[17]

In 2010, Black directed his own script Virginia, starring Jennifer Connelly.[18]

Also 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][19]

Black wrote the screenplay for J. Edgar, a biographical drama released November 11, 2011, directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Leonardo DiCaprio.[20]

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.[21] 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.[22][23]

The American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) and Broadway Impact, sponsors of 8, have released and licensed the play for readings nationwide on college campuses and in community theaters free of charge.[3][24][25][26]

Black appears as himself in the documentary film Hollywood to Dollywood (originally released in 2011).[27]

Black published his autobiography Mama's Boy: A Story From Our Americas in 2019.[28]

Paris Barclay was slated to direct Black's screenplay A Life Like Mine.[citation needed]

From 2007 to 2011, Gus Van Sant was set to direct a film adaptation of Tom Wolfe's book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, for a time working with Black.[29][30]

Personal life[edit]

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 and was featured on the cover of the magazine.[31] 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.[32]

Black's brother, Marcus, died of cancer in January 2012.[33][34]

Black started a relationship with the British Olympic and World champion diver Tom Daley in spring 2013.[35] The couple live in the London district of Southwark.[36] They were engaged in October 2015 and married at Bovey Castle in Devon in May 2017.[37][38]

In February 2018 Black and Daley announced they were expecting their first child and subsequently announced the birth of a son by surrogacy in June 2018.[39][40] Facing criticism for their choice of surrogacy, Black and Daley started a podcast in which they discussed the ethical issues surrounding surrogacy and the experience as a whole.[41] The couple do not share pictures of their child's face online due to privacy concerns. Daley said, "That might change in the future, but for right now, we wanted to enjoy the first year with him."[42] Daley and Black's second son was born in March 2023.[43]

In 2014, Black was one of eight potential commencement speakers invited by Pasadena City College, and he accepted. After school officials learned nude pictures of Black engaged in unprotected sex were leaked online five years prior, the college announced Black had not been officially invited and the unofficial invitation was "an honest error".[44] After talks between Black's and PCC's attorneys, the college board of trustees apologized and formally invited him.[45]

In 2023, Black pled not guilty to a charge of assault. The charges were later dismissed by the presiding judge due to inconsistencies and weakness in evidence from the accuser.[46]


Year Title Role Notes
2000 Something Close to Heaven Director/Writer Short film
The Journey of Jared Price Director/Writer
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 Writer 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/Writer
2011 8 Writer
J. Edgar Writer
2015 "Songs I Can't Listen To" by Neon Trees Actor Music Video
2017 When We Rise Creator/Writer/Producer
Director (2 episodes)
Miniseries about the LGBT civil rights movement in the United States[47]
2022 Under the Banner of Heaven Creator/Executive Producer

Director (1 episode):

  • "One Mighty and Strong"

Writer (4 episodes):

  • "When God Was Love"
  • "Rightful Place"
  • "Surrender"
  • "Blood Atonement"
Crime drama television miniseries
2023 Rustin Writer/Executive Producer

Other awards[edit]

  • Cinema for Peace Award for Most Valuable Movie of The Year 2009
  • UCLA's Distinguished Achievement in Screenwriting award, "UCLA Festival 2009: New Creative Work," School of Theater, Film and Television, June 10, 2009, Freud Playhouse[48]
  • Distinguished Service to the LGBT Community by a UCLA Alumnus Award, 2009 UCLA LGBT Graduation Ceremony, June 13, 2009[49]
  • Bonham Centre Award, for contribution to awareness and education around issues of sexual diversity, Media.utoronto.ca, The Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies, University of Toronto, September 27, 2011
  • Human Rights Campaign, Visibility Award September 15, 2012[50]
  • Equality Arizona, The Barry Goldwater Human Rights Individual Award Sept. 2013[51]
  • Writers Guild of America West, 2018 Valentine Davies Award for Civil and Human Rights Efforts, February 11, 2018[52]


  1. ^ a b Black 2019, pp. 66–67.
  2. ^ "About: Board of Directors". American Foundation For Equal Rights. Archived from the original on March 4, 2012. Retrieved March 4, 2012.
  3. ^ a b "About "8" the play". "8" official website. Archived from the original on February 27, 2017. Retrieved March 4, 2012.
  4. ^ Kors, Joshua (August 26, 2010). "Oscar Winner Dustin Lance Black on Mormonism, Prop 8, Sarah Palin and the Challenges of Being Gay". The Huffington Post. Archived from the original on March 12, 2017. Retrieved March 10, 2017.
  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. January 21, 2010. Archived from the original on October 21, 2013. Retrieved December 4, 2013.
  6. ^ a b 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. ^ a b c d e f Lamble, David (February 21, 2008). "How he got Milk". Bay Area Reporter. Archived from the original on January 27, 2011. Retrieved July 24, 2008.
  8. ^ a b "Cast & Crew: Dustin Lance Black". Focus Features. Archived from the original on December 7, 2008. Retrieved November 15, 2008.
  9. ^ Martinez, Julio (October 25, 2000). "Theater Review: Bare". Variety. Archived from the original on September 21, 2008. Retrieved July 25, 2008.
  10. ^ a b c Nichols, Larry (October 2, 2008). "Milk-ing the Silver Screen". Metro Weekly. Archived from the original on June 8, 2011. Retrieved November 15, 2008.
  11. ^ Frei, Darren (June 6, 2006). "Polygamy, gays, and TV". The Advocate (964): 4.
  12. ^ Ferber, Lawrence. "Love To Love You, Chloe". Genre. Archived from the original on May 16, 2008. Retrieved July 25, 2008.
  13. ^ a b c Winn, Steven (January 30, 2008). "Picturing Harvey Milk: Filming of movie evokes memories, emotions in the Castro". San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on August 5, 2011. Retrieved July 25, 2008.
  14. ^ Goldstein, Patrick (June 11, 2008). "A passion project gets beaten to the punch". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on October 22, 2012. Retrieved July 25, 2008.
  15. ^ Garrett, Diane (November 18, 2007). "Van Sant's 'Milk' pours first". Variety. Archived from the original on September 19, 2008. Retrieved July 25, 2008.
  16. ^ Finke, Nikki. "White Knot Oscars And Spirit Awards Lists". Deadline.com. Archived from the original on October 21, 2013. Retrieved December 4, 2013.
  17. ^ "'Obama, I know you are listening': Gay rights activists march in D.C. - CNN.com". edition.cnn.com. Archived from the original on March 2, 2019. Retrieved March 1, 2019.
  18. ^ Virginia (DVD). Port Washington, New York: E One Entertainment. 2012. ISBN 9781417237753. OCLC 797209121. EOE-DV-7241.
  19. ^ "GLAAD Media Awards: See Dustin Lance Black, Naya Rivera and Mario Lopez at the San Francisco event". Archived from the original on May 19, 2011. Retrieved May 25, 2011.
  20. ^ J. Edgar (DVD). Burbank, California: Warner Bros. Entertainment. 2011. ISBN 9780780685017. OCLC 777386709. 3000042353.
  21. ^ "Rick Santorum Has Lied on Gay Rights, Dustin Lance Black Claims". On Top. Archived from the original on March 17, 2012.
  22. ^ Ng, David (March 4, 2012). "George Clooney, Brad Pitt lead all-star Prop. 8 play reading". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on March 6, 2012. Retrieved March 11, 2012.
  23. ^ "Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Martin Sheen headline West Coast premiere of marriage-rights play". The Washington Post. Associated Press. March 4, 2012. Retrieved March 11, 2012.[dead link]
  24. ^ 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. Archived from the original on March 3, 2012. Retrieved March 4, 2012.
  25. ^ Kennedy, Mark (January 17, 2012). "'8,' Dustin Lance Black Gay Marriage Play, Goes National During 2012". The Huffington Post. Archived from the original on March 8, 2012. Retrieved March 11, 2012.
  26. ^ 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. Archived from the original on August 3, 2012. Retrieved March 11, 2012.
  27. ^ Hollywood to Dollywood (DVD). Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Breaking Glass Pictures. 2012. OCLC 813327724. BGP342.
  28. ^ Black 2019.
  29. ^ Lyttelton, Oliver (September 16, 2011). "Gus Van Sant Says He's Still Working Out How To Make 'The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test'". IndieWire. Retrieved October 19, 2022.
  30. ^ "Gus Van Sant to Direct Adaptation of The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test". First Showing. June 11, 2007. Retrieved October 19, 2022.
  31. ^ Karpel, Ari (June 2009). "Forty Under 40: Dustin Lance Black". The Advocate. Archived from the original on May 9, 2009.
  32. ^ "Gay Pride Events - NYC Pride - Heritage of Pride". Archived from the original on February 27, 2012.
  33. ^ "2012 January". Dustin Lance Black. Archived from the original on December 6, 2013. Retrieved December 4, 2013.
  34. ^ Hernandez, Greg (January 30, 2012). "Condolences to Dustin Lance Black & his family". Greginhollywood.com. Archived from the original on December 3, 2013. Retrieved December 4, 2013.
  35. ^ "Tom Daley Talks 'Crazy' Attention On His Relationship With Dustin Lance Black". The Huffington Post. May 2, 2014. Archived from the original on May 4, 2014.
  36. ^ Malec, Brett (May 2, 2014). "Tom Daley and Boyfriend Dustin Lance Black Move in Together in London". E! Online. Archived from the original on May 5, 2014. Retrieved May 4, 2014.
  37. ^ Khomami, Nadia (October 1, 2015). "Tom Daley announces engagement to film-maker Dustin Lance Black". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Archived from the original on March 1, 2016. Retrieved March 1, 2016.
  38. ^ "Tom Daley and Dustin Lance Black marry at Devon hotel". BBC News. May 7, 2017. Archived from the original on May 1, 2018. Retrieved June 22, 2018.
  39. ^ "Tom Daley reveals he's going to be a father". The Independent. February 14, 2018. Archived from the original on March 30, 2018. Retrieved February 20, 2018.
  40. ^ "Tom Daley and husband have baby son by surrogate". The Times. Archived from the original on June 30, 2018.
  41. ^ Williams, Zoe (December 10, 2018). "'We meet hate with curiosity': Dustin Lance Black on Tom Daley, babies and the ethics of surrogacy". The Guardian. Retrieved March 30, 2020.
  42. ^ Turner, Charlotte (May 5, 2019). "The reason why you won't see Tom Daley's son's face". Plymouth Live. Retrieved March 20, 2020.
  43. ^ Juneau, Jen (April 5, 2023). "Tom Daley and Dustin Lance Black Welcome Second Baby, Son Phoenix Rose". People. Retrieved April 5, 2023.
  44. ^ 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.
  45. ^ 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.
  46. ^ Cho, Winston (November 2023). "Judge Dismisses Dustin Lance Black Assault Case Tied to London Nightclub Fracas". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved November 24, 2023 – via MSN.com.
  47. ^ Wenger, Daniel (March 2, 2017). "Dustin Lance Black, the Screenwriter Behind "Milk" and "When We Rise," on Coming Out As a Gay Activist". The New Yorker. Archived from the original on October 10, 2018. Retrieved May 30, 2018.
  48. ^ Bond, Teri (June 4, 2009). "Oscar-winning 'Milk' screenwriter to be honored at UCLA film festival event". UCLA Newsroom. Archived from the original on June 12, 2009.
  49. ^ LGBT Graduation 2009 - Distinguished Service Award, Dustin Lance Black, UCLA on YouTube
  50. ^ "Nominees & Winners for the 81st Academy Awards | Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences". Oscars.org. August 24, 2012. Archived from the original on March 27, 2014. Retrieved December 4, 2013.
  51. ^ Gullickson, Glenn. "Equality Arizona goes Hollywood with awards dinner". Echo Magazine. Archived from the original on December 3, 2013. Retrieved December 4, 2013.
  52. ^ "Screenwriter and LGBTQ Activist Dustin Lance Black to Receive WGAW's 2018 Valentine Davies Award for Civil and Human Rights Efforts". www.wga.org. Retrieved July 17, 2020.


External links[edit]