Van Sant’s Harvey Milk biopic, bluntly titled Milk at present, got popular in a hurry. Somehow, I think the casting of Sean Penn in the lead role had something to do with that.

Though they’re still "in negotiations", I’m pretty confident that the agents/managers/attorneys/dog walkers for Josh Brolin, Emile Hirsch and James Franco will dot the "i’s", cross the "t’s" and arrange for the handing over of first-borns in order to get their clients onboard what’s shaping up to be one of next year’s (or is it 2009’s?) most promising prestige pictures. If all goes according to the brokering, Brolin will play Milk’s (and San Francisco Mayor George Moscone’s) assassin, Dan White. Just think: a year ago, we’d be dumbstruck by the casting of Brolin. Now, it’s a wonder that he hasn’t gotten attached to more ’08 projects.

Also flush from some ’07 success is Emile Hirsch, who’ll play gay rights activist Cleve Jones, who was an intern and confidant to Milk. During the Into the Wild junket, Hirsch repeatedly talked of wanting to work with Penn in front of the camera some day. That was quick.

And then there’s Franco, who’s about to enjoy a career resurgence in ’08 thanks to his ingratiating stoner portrayal in David Gordon Green’s The Pineapple Express. He’ll play Scott Smith, Milk’s campaign manager and lover. We’re probably thinking the same thing right now. If so, are your palms sweating, too?

Milk is scheduled to commence principal photography this January in San Francisco. I haven’t read Dustin Lance Black’s screenplay yet, but I imagine Van Sant will break with his Bela Tarr aesthetic for this one (which reminds me: who do I have to schtup to see Paranoid Park?).