"When power leads men towards arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the areas of man's concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of his existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses. For art establishes the basic human truth which must serve as the touchstone of our judgment."
-President John F. Kennedy
Oscar winning Producer Bruce Cohen fits President Kennedy's description perfectly. Through his art combined with his activism, Cohen has changed the world. From winning his Oscar for 'Best Picture' for American Beauty to his hard hitting filmed biography of the great Harvey Milk, this gentle man has left a major mark on society.
Cohen's films are like a litany of our times with American Beauty, Milk and Silver Lining Playbook being the most prominent of his talented career. In each there is a basic truth of politics, human sexuality, challenging lives, activism's ability to change the world and the joy of breaking through personal barriers by walking through fear. Cohen has held up a large mirror and in the process challenged each and everyone of us to do more.
He was nominated for an Emmy Award for his producing the 83rd Academy Awards. Currently, along with Dan Jinks, he is bringing Big Fish to Broadway.
The producer asks of us no more than he himself is willing to give back. As President of the American Foundation For Equal Rights (AFER), he has been instrumented in bringing the Proposition 8 case to the Supreme Court. However, he is no 'Johnny-come-lately' to the halls of activism. For decades he has fought for LGBT Americans to have full equality, to elect progressive politicians and to combat HIV/AIDS.
Cohen was married to his husband Gabe Catone by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in May, 2008. They have one child and live in Los Angeles and New York.
Here are 'Five Questions For......Bruce Cohen'
1. Are you now living your childhood dreams?
From the time I was nine and my grandmothers let me stay up to watch the Oscars my dream in life was to win one. So, now with three Best Picture nominations to my credit and a win for AMERICAN BEAUTY, yes, I am absolutely living my childhood dream!
2. When did you come out and has it made your path in the entertainment industry more difficult.
I came out to myself and then my friends as a 19 year old sophomore at Yale in 1981. I came out to my parents in 1985. Professionally, I kept it mostly hidden until I mustered the courage to come out to my boss, who happened to be Steven Speilberg, in 1992. He had the warmest, most wonderful reaction. After that, I've never given a crap who knew and have never felt that it made my path in the entertainment industry more difficult. If anything, I feel it has been a plus, as it has allowed me to be who I am and bring my full creativity and passion to the projects I've been involved in.
3. You have won an Academy Award for "American Beauty" and had "Milk" and "Silver Lining Playbook" wins Oscar nominations for Best Picture. What story/movie are you dying to make in the future? What is your dream project?
My dream is just to continue to get the chance to work with brilliant directors, writers and actors on projects that entertain and inspire us... oh, and maybe change the world just a little... oh, and an original movie musical-- that's a definite fantasy I hope to make real.
4. You are one of the great LGBT pioneers and activists. In addition, you are heavily involved in American politics. What do you believe is the role of the arts in changing the world?
With a film like MILK, which I will be forever honored and humbled to be a part of, I have experienced first hand the power of film to make a permanent difference on an important issue worldwide. When we were getting ready to shoot the film, we would meet out, proud kids in the Castro who hadn't heard of Harvey. ON HARVEY MILK PLAZA-- and they didn't know who he was.... but no more.
5. What is the funniest or most embarrassing thing ever to happen to you while making a movie?
Well, for better or worse, there have been many funny and embarrassing moments on sets over the years. If I had to pick one that was both, I guess I'll go with one Friday night on ALWAYS, a Speilberg movie. I was the second assistant director on, when Steven asked me to get him his formal yarmulke. This request threw me into a bit of a panic, since, even though it was shabbat, I had never known Steven to be that religious and I certainly didn't know he had a formal yarmulke-- or even what that was-- or where I would find it. Thankfully, I finally realized he was actually asking for the all-terrain vehicle he used to get around the set in Montana-- his four-wheel yamaha.