Hollywood glamour came to Northern California last night as San Francisco hosted the premiere of a film about one of its most famous sons.

The screening of Milk was attended by stars Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Emile Hirsch and Diego Luna.

“He’s an American hero,” director Gus Van Sant said. “He’s a great example of a man representing his community and his city.”

Milk is a biopic of San Francisco gay activist Harvey Milk, with Penn in the lead role.

Josh Brolin, star of the award-winning Coen brothers film No Country for Old Men, plays Milk’s nemesis Dan White.

James Franco, best known for his role in the Spiderman films, plays Milk’s longterm partner Scott Smith.

Van Sant, nominated for an Oscar for Good Will Hunting, also directed My Own Private Idaho, Drugstore Cowboy and Only Cowgirls Get The Blues.

Harvey Milk was probably the first out gay male politician in American history.

Known during his lifetime as “The Mayor of Castro Street,” he is a political icon among gay activists for his ability to build the LGBT community into a grassroots political force.

Mr Milk was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977.

In his 11 months in office he sponsored a gay rights bill and helped to defeat a proposition that would have seen openly gay and lesbian teachers sacked.

He was gunned down at City Hall by Dan White, a disgruntled former Supervisor, on November 27th 1978.

Mr Milk was recently honoured with a bust on permanent display in San Francisco City Hall, a rare accolade for someone who never held the position of Mayor.

The film Milk opens in the UK on January 16th 2009.

On November 4th California voters will decide on a ballot proposition to overturn a state supreme court decision and stop gay couples from getting married.