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Dustin Lance Black
Dustin Lance Black on Forum Stage at Web Summit 2017 (24373767078).jpg
Black at the Web Summit 2017
Born (1974-06-10) June 10, 1974 (age 49)
Education University of California, Los Angeles (BA)
Occupation Screenwriter, film director, film producer
Years active 2000–present
Notable work
Big Love (2006–09)
Milk (2008)
8 (2011)
Board member of American Foundation for Equal Rights
(m. 2017)
Children 2
Dustin Lance Black signature.jpg

Dustin Lance Black (born June 10, 1974) 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 and writer of 8, a staged reenactment of the federal trial that led to a federal court's overturn of California's Proposition 8.

Early life

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

While attending North Salinas High School, Black began to work in theater at The Western Stage in Salinas and later worked on productions including Bare at Hollywood's Hudson Main Stage Theater. 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. 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. 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.

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." 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?" Researching Milk's life for three years, Black met with Milk's former aides Cleve Jones and Anne Kronenberg, as well as former San Francisco Mayor Art Agnos, and began to write a feature film screenplay encompassing the events of Milk's life. The screenplay was written on spec, but Black showed the script to Jones, who passed it on to his friend Gus Van Sant, who signed on to direct the feature. 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.

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.

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 directed his own script Virginia, starring Jennifer Connelly.

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.

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. 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.

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.

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

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

Paris Barclay was slated to direct Black's screenplay A Life Like Mine.

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.

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 and 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.

Black's brother, Marcus, died of cancer in January 2012.

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

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. 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. 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." Daley and Black's second son was born in March 2023.

In 2014, Black was one of eight potential commencement speakers invited by Pasadena City College, and he accepted.


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
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
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

  • 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
  • Distinguished Service to the LGBT Community by a UCLA Alumnus Award, 2009 UCLA LGBT Graduation Ceremony, June 13, 2009
  • Human Rights Campaign, Visibility Award September 15, 2012
  • Equality Arizona, The Barry Goldwater Human Rights Individual Award Sept. 2013
  • Writers Guild of America West, 2018 Valentine Davies Award for Civil and Human Rights Efforts, February 11, 2018

See also

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