Dustin Lance Black is one of our few brand-name screenwriters, and he proved his talent yet again on Saturday with a benefit reading of his play 8, at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre in Los Angeles. Black, who penned the screenplay for Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar and is an Oscar winner for 2008’s Milk, wrote 8 from court testimony and interviews about the case to overturn Proposition 8, which reversed a California Supreme Court decision allowing same-sex marriage in the state in 2008.
Black, 37, is a well-known LGBT rights activist and a founding board member—along with Rob Reiner, who directed the reading—of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, which helped lead the fight against Proposition 8 and organized Saturday’s event. The performance featured an impressive cast including George Clooney, Martin Sheen, Brad Pitt, Christine Lahti, Kevin Bacon, Jane Lynch, and John C. Reilly. According to Reiner, it was watched live on YouTube by 200,000 people.
8 first appeared on Broadway for one evening last September featuring Morgan Freeman, Ellen Barkin, and John Lithgow. Black told Entertainment Weekly this weekend, “I felt after the New York version that I wanted to know the plaintiffs more, I wanted to know their personal stories more. So I took out a few of the legal arguments that were a bit I guess redundant in a way…and I added more personal stories. Really, in the end, it’s the personal stories that change people’s minds.” Reiner added that he hope to one day produce a film version of 8.
Proposition 8 was declared unconstitutional in February.