Sean Justin Penn
(born August 17, 1960)
is an American actor, director, screenwriter, and producer. He has won two Academy Awards
, for his roles in the mystery drama Mystic River
(2003) and the biopic Milk
Penn began his acting career in television, with a brief appearance in episode 112 of Little House on the Prairie
on December 4, 1974, and directed by his father Leo Penn
. Following his film debut in the drama Taps
(1981), and a diverse range of film roles in the 1980s, including Fast Times at Ridgemont High
(1982) and Bad Boys
(1983). Penn garnered critical attention for his roles in the crime dramas At Close Range
(1986), State of Grace
(1990), and Carlito's Way
(1993). He became known as a prominent leading actor with the drama Dead Man Walking
(1995), for which he earned his first Academy Award nomination and the Best Actor Award
at the Berlin Film Festival
. Penn received another two Oscar nominations for Woody Allen
's comedy-drama Sweet and Lowdown
(1999) and the drama I Am Sam
(2001), before winning his first Academy Award for Best Actor in 2003 for Mystic River
and a second one in 2008 for Milk
. He has also won a Best Actor Award
at the Cannes Film Festival
for the Nick Cassavetes
-directed She's So Lovely
(1997), and two Best Actor Awards
at the Venice Film Festival
for the indie film Hurlyburly
(1998) and the drama 21 Grams
Penn was born in Santa Monica, California
to actor and director Leo Penn
and actress Eileen Ryan
His older brother is musician Michael Penn
. His younger brother, actor Chris Penn
, died in 2006. His father was Jewish
, the son of emigrants from the Russian Empire,
while his mother is a Catholic
Penn was raised in a secular
in Malibu, California
, and attended Malibu Park Junior High School
and Santa Monica High School
, as Malibu had no high school at that time.
He began making short films
with some of his childhood friends including actors Emilio Estevez
and Charlie Sheen
, who lived near his home.
Penn appeared in a 1974 episode of the Little House on the Prairie
television series as an extra when his father, Leo, directed some of the episodes. Penn launched his film career with the action-drama Taps
(1981), where he played a military high school cadet.
A year later, he appeared in the hit comedy Fast Times at Ridgemont High
(1982), in the role of surfer-stoner Jeff Spicoli; his character helped popularize the word "dude" in popular culture.
Next, Penn appeared as Mick O'Brien, a troubled youth, in the drama Bad Boys
The role earned Penn favorable reviews and jump-started his career as a serious actor.
Penn played Andrew Daulton Lee
in the film The Falcon and the Snowman
(1985), which closely followed an actual criminal case.
Lee was a former drug dealer by trade, convicted of espionage for the Soviet Union
and originally sentenced to life in prison, but was paroled in 1998. Penn later hired Lee as his personal assistant, partly because he wanted to reward Lee for allowing him to play Lee in the film; Penn was also a firm believer in rehabilitation and thought Lee should be successfully reintegrated into society, since he was a free man again.
Penn starred in the drama At Close Range
(1986) which received critical acclaim.
He stopped acting for a few years in the early 1990s, having been dissatisfied with the industry, and focused on making his directing debut.
In November 2008, Penn earned positive reviews for his portrayal of real-life gay-rights icon and politician Harvey Milk
in the biopic Milk
(2008), and was nominated for best actor for the 2008 Independent Spirit Awards
The film also earned Penn his fifth nomination and second win for the Academy Award for Best Actor. Penn starred as Joseph C. Wilson
in Fair Game
(2010), a film adaptation of Valerie Plame
's 2007 memoir
. He co-starred in the drama The Tree of Life
(2011), which won the Palme d'Or
at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival
. In 2015, Penn starred in The Gunman
, a French-American action thriller based on the novel The Prone Gunman
, by Jean-Patrick Manchette
. Jasmine Trinca
, Idris Elba
, Ray Winstone
, Mark Rylance
, and fellow Oscar
-winner Javier Bardem
appear in supporting roles. Penn plays Jim Terrier, a sniper
on a mercenary
assassination team who kills the minister of mines of the Congo
In March 2018, Atria Books
published Penn's novel Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff.
After the book's release, Penn went on a highly publicized press tour.
He claimed that he no longer had "a generic interest in making films", and being a writer will "dominate my creative energies for the foreseeable future."
He met singer-songwriter Madonna
in February 1985,
and they married that August on her 27th birthday; Penn turned 25 the next day. The two starred in the panned and much-derided Shanghai Surprise
(1986), directed by Jim Goddard
, and Madonna dedicated her third studio album True Blue
(1986) to Penn, referring to him in the liner notes as "the coolest guy in the universe".
The marriage was marred by violent outbursts against the press, including one incident when Penn was arrested for assaulting a photographer on a film set; Penn was sentenced to 60 days in jail in mid-1987, of which he served 33 days.
Madonna filed for divorce in December 1987
but later withdrew the papers, only to file them again in January 1989. Madonna reportedly filed an assault complaint that she was beaten in her Malibu, California
home by her estranged husband, but in January 1989, the Associated Press reported that she had "dropped assault charges."
Penn was alleged to have struck Madonna on multiple occasions, but in 2015 Madonna stated the allegations were "completely outrageous, malicious, reckless, and false".
At the end of his first marriage, Penn moved in with actress Robin Wright
, and their first child, a daughter named Dylan Frances
, was born April 13, 1991.
Their second child, son Hopper Jack, was born August 6, 1993.
Penn and Wright separated in 1995, during which time he developed a relationship with Jewel
, after he spotted her performing on Late Night with Conan O'Brien
. He invited her to compose a song for his film The Crossing Guard
(1995) and followed her on tour.
Penn and Wright reconciled, married on April 27, 1996, and lived in Ross, California
The couple filed for divorce in December 2007 but reconciled several months later, requesting a court dismissal of their divorce case.
In April 2009, Penn filed for legal separation, only to withdraw the case once again when the couple reconciled in May.
On August 12, 2009, Wright filed for divorce again.
The couple's divorce was finalized on July 22, 2010; the couple reached a private agreement on child and spousal support, division of assets, and custody of Hopper, who was almost 17 at the time.
He began a relationship with Australian actress Leila George
They married on July 30, 2020.
Political views and activism
Penn has been outspoken in supporting numerous political and social causes.
On December 13–16, 2002, he visited Iraq
to protest the Bush Administration's
apparent plans for a military strike on Iraq. On June 10, 2005, Penn made a visit to Iran
. Acting as a journalist on an assignment for the San Francisco Chronicle
, he attended a Friday prayer
at Tehran University
On January 7, 2006, Penn was a special guest at the Progressive Democrats of America
, where he was joined by author and media critic Norman Solomon
and activist Cindy Sheehan
. The "Out of Iraq Forum", which took place in Sacramento, California
, was organized to promote the anti-war movement calling for an end to the War in Iraq
Criticism of President Bush
In the letter, Penn also criticized the Bush administration for its "deconstruction of civil liberties
" and its "simplistic and inflammatory view of good and evil."
Penn visited Iraq briefly in December 2002.
"Sean is one of the few," remarked his ex-wife Madonna
. "Good for him. Most celebrities are keeping their heads down. Nobody wants to be unpopular. But then Americans, by and large, are pretty ignorant of what's going on in the world."
advertisement was cited as a primary reason for the development of his relationship with Venezuelan
president Hugo Chávez
. In one of his televised speeches, Chávez used and read aloud an open letter Penn wrote to Bush.
The letter condemned the Iraq War, called for Bush to be impeached
, and also called Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney
, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
"villainously and criminally obscene people."
On April 19, 2007, Penn appeared on The Colbert Report
and had a "Meta-Free-Phor-All" versus Stephen Colbert
that was judged by Robert Pinsky
. This stemmed from some of Penn's criticisms of Bush. His exact quote was "We cower as you point your fingers telling us to support our troops. You and the smarmy pundits in your pocket– those who bathe in the moisture of your soiled and blood-soaked underwear– can take that noise and shove it."
He won the contest with 10,000,000 points to Colbert's 1.
On December 7, 2007, Penn said he supported Ohio Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich
for U.S. President in 2008, and criticized Bush's handling of the Iraq war. Penn questioned whether Bush's twin daughters supported the war in Iraq.
Support for same-sex marriage
On February 22, 2009, Penn received the Academy Award for Best Actor
for the film Milk
. In his acceptance speech, he said: "I think that it is a good time for those who voted for the ban against gay marriage
to sit and reflect and anticipate their great shame and the shame in their grandchildren's eyes if they continue that way of support. We've got to have equal rights
Relief efforts following 2010 Haiti earthquake
After the 2010 Haiti earthquake
, Penn founded the J/P Haitian Relief Organization
which operated a 55,000 person tent camp.
Before starting the organization, Penn had never visited Haiti and did not speak French or Creole
. When asked for his comment on critics who questioned his experience, he said he hopes they "die screaming of rectal cancer”.
Due to his visibility as an on-the-ground advocate for rescue and aid efforts in the aftermath, Penn was designated by president Michel Martelly
as Ambassador-at-Large for Haiti, the first time that a non-Haitian citizen has been designated as such in the country's history. Penn received the designation on January 31, 2012.
In 2012, at the 12th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates, Penn received the Peace Summit Award.
Penn gained significant attention in the Pakistan
media when he visited Karachi
in 2012. On March 23, 2012, he visited flood-stricken villages of Karim Bux Jamali, Dargah Shah Gurio and Peero Lashari in Badin
District. He was accompanied by U.S. Consul General William J. Martin and distributed blankets, quilts, kitchen items and other goods amongst flood survivors.
Release of Jacob Ostreicher from Bolivian prison
Penn is believed to have played a role in getting American entrepreneur Jacob Ostreicher
released from a Bolivian prison in 2013, and was credited by Ostreicher for having personally nursed him back to health upon his release.
In March 2010, Penn called for the arrest of those referring to Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez
as a dictator.
The two were friends, and when Chávez died in 2013, Penn said: "Venezuela and its revolution will endure under the proven leadership of Vice President Nicolás Maduro
. Today the United States lost a friend it never knew it had. And poor people around the world lost a champion. I lost a friend I was blessed to have."
Falkland Islands controversy
In February 2012, Penn met with the President of Argentina
, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner
, in Buenos Aires where he made a statement on the long-running dispute
between Argentina and the United Kingdom
over the Falkland Islands
, saying: "I know I came in a very sensitive moment in terms of diplomacy between Argentina and the UK over the Falkland Islands. And I hope that diplomats can establish true dialogue in order to solve the conflict as the world today cannot tolerate ridiculous demonstrations of colonialism. The way of dialogue is the only way to achieve a better solution for both nations."
The comments were taken as support of Argentina's claim to the islands and evoked strong reactions in the British media, with one satirical article in The Daily Telegraph
requesting that Penn "return his Malibu
estate to the Mexicans
". Falklands War
veteran and political activist Simon Weston
stated "Sean Penn does not know what he is talking about and, frankly, he should shut up. His [Penn's] views are irrelevant and it only serves to fuel the fire of the Argentinians and get them more pumped up"
while British Conservative
MP Patrick Mercer
dismissed Penn's statement as "moronic."
Lauren Collins of The New Yorker
wrote: "As of today, Sean Penn is the new Karl Lagerfeld
—the man upon whom, having disrespected something dear to the United Kingdom, the British papers most gleefully pile contempt".
Penn later claimed that he had been misrepresented by the British press and that his criticism of "colonialism" was a reference to the deployment of Prince William
as an air-sea rescue pilot, describing it as a "message of pre-emptive intimidation". He claimed that the Prince's posting meant "the automatic deployment of warships", and stated: "My oh my, aren't people sensitive to the word 'colonialism', particularly those who implement colonialism."
In a piece written in The Guardian
, Penn wrote that "the legalisation of Argentinian immigration to the Malvinas/Falkland Islands is one that it seems might have been addressed, but for the speculative discovery of booming offshore oil in the surrounding seas this past year". He further wrote that "irresponsible journalism" had suggested "that I had taken a specific position against those currently residing in the Malvinas/Falkland Islands, that they should either be deported or absorbed into Argentine rule. I neither said, nor insinuated that".
Oscar green card joke
Iñarritu said that it was a joke between him and Penn, who worked together on 21 Grams
, and that he found it "hilarious." Penn later went on record defending his comments, saying, "I have absolutely no apologies. In fact, I have a big 'fuck you' for every...anybody who is so stupid not to have gotten the irony when you've got a country that is so xenophobic
. If they had their way, you wouldn't have great filmmakers like Alejandro working in this country. Thank God we do."
Lee Daniels lawsuit
In an interview published September 16, 2015, director and showrunner Lee Daniels
responded to criticism about Terrence Howard
's continued career in light of his domestic violence issues by referencing Penn's rumored history of domestic violence, saying: "[Terrence] ain't done nothing different than Marlon Brando
or Sean Penn, and all of a sudden he's some f—in' demon."
In response, Penn launched a $10 million defamation suit against Daniels, alleging that he had never been arrested for or charged with domestic violence.
Penn dropped the lawsuit in May 2016 after Daniels retracted his statement and apologized.
El Chapo interview
A day after Mexican officials announced the capture of Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán
in a bloody raid, Rolling Stone
revealed on January 9, 2016 that Sean Penn, along with actress Kate del Castillo
, had conducted a secret interview with El Chapo prior to his arrest.
Del Castillo was contacted by Guzmán's lawyer (who was under CISEN
surveillance) to talk about producing a biographical film about Guzmán and communication increased following Guzmán's escape from prison in July 2015.
The deal for the interview was brokered by del Castillo.
According to published text messages with del Castillo, Guzmán did not know who Sean Penn was.
CISEN released photographs of del Castillo at the meetings with Guzmán's lawyers and of the arrival of the actress and Penn to Mexico. The interview was criticized by some, including the White House
, which called the interview "maddening".
Mexican authorities said they were seeking to question Penn over the interview, which had not been approved by either the American or Mexican government.
Penn and del Castillo's meeting with Guzmán is under investigation by the Attorney General of Mexico
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Last edited on 29 May 2021, at 23:35
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