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#Pride30: Oscar Winner Bruce Cohen Is Producing Films — and Activism

Award-winning film producer Bruce Cohen is bringing activism to Hollywood and vice versa.
83rd Annual Academy Awards - Arrivals
Producer Bruce Cohen arrives at the 83rd Annual Academy Awards held at the Kodak Theatre on February 27, 2011 in Hollywood, California.Alberto E. Rodriguez / WireImage

"In hindsight, I sort of always knew I was gay," award-winning film producer Bruce Cohen told NBC Out in a phone interview. "I didn't come out to myself until college, and not to my parents until I got to Hollywood, and I didn't come out in Hollywood until six or seven years later, in the early 90s."

Cohen's career in film began when he accepted a clerical job as a Directors Guild of America trainee on Steven Spielberg's "The Color Purple."

Producer Bruce Cohen arrives at the 83rd Annual Academy Awards held at the Kodak Theatre on February 27, 2011 in Hollywood, California.Alberto E. Rodriguez / WireImage

"I didn't know what a producer was at that point, but I saw that movie being produced and was in awe," Cohen said. "I continued to assistant direct for about seven or eight more years. It really inspired me to produce."

Cohen has since had an illustrious career, producing and working on such prestigious films as "American Beauty" (for which he won a Best Picture Oscar), "Milk," "Silver Linings Playbook," and "Big Fish." But of equal importance to Cohen is his activism.

"It’s particularly rewarding and exciting for me to be able to bring the skills I honed producing in the entertainment industry to producing LGBTQ events, rallies, protests and other forms of activism," Cohen said.

Most recently, Cohen was one of the producers of the rally in front of Trump Tower the night before Donald Trump's inauguration.

"It got thrown together at the last minute, like so many things in the resistance," Cohen said. "Mark Ruffalo had been talking to de Blasio about doing a big rally to show NYC's resistance to everything that was about to unfold. When the mayor's office finally signed off a week in advance, it was a mad rush to put everything together."

Cohen said the rally drew a crowd of 25,000 people, and 14 million people streamed it from home.

"All the producing I was doing in the activist space, in the LGBTQ community, it was just a rehearsal for what we have to stand up and fight against now," he said. "The rights of LGBTQ people, workers' rights, women’s rights, the rights of people of color and transgender rights -- I feel like we’re in the fight of our lives."

Austin P. McKenzie in "When We Rise"Eike Schroter / ABC via Getty Images

Cohen's most project, "When We Rise," is a docudrama mini-series about the historic struggle for LGBTQ rights in America, starting with Stonewall.

"It was important to us to tell a story about our civil rights fight," Cohen said. "We told the grassroots San Francisco activist story, and what was really special about that story was that it was gay men, lesbians, transgender people and people of color who all started in separate camps but eventually all came together. It was a deep honor to tell those stories and celebrate what they've accomplished."

Fun Fact: "I was in the Baker’s Dozen of Yale, a male a cappella singer’s group in college."

Pride Means: "Pride is a celebration of the incredible diversity, passion, brilliance and activism of our community. The LGBTQ community is extraordinary. We come from all races, all religions, all family backgrounds and all socioeconomic levels. We don’t choose the families we’re born into, but we’re everywhere in every corner of the world. We’re connective tissue. I think that’s really magnificent."

Bruce Cohen was nominated for NBC Out's #Pride30 list by singer Melissa Etheridge, who said Cohen is an "amazing person" and credited him with inspiring her to come out publicly. "He has taken his fire inside about his desire for equality, and he's created art with it, which is one of the greatest ways to change our society," Etheridge added.

Check out the full NBC Out #Pride30 list & follow NBC Out onTwitter,Facebook & Instagram