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Sean Penn

Related: actor - American cinema

Sean Penn in
Bad Boys (1983)
image sourced here.

When Madonna married the Hollywood firebrand after a whirlwind romance the words "bad career move" were on everyone's lips. Madonna says he reminded her of her father, their birthdays were one day apart and she claimed they could reach each other's minds. To this day Madonna still considers the Dead Man Walking star to be the love of her life but the brief two years they spent together were marred by marital battles on a scale that ranked above even Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. --source unidentified


Sean Penn (born August 17, 1960) is an American film actor. Penn is the son of director Leo Penn, who was blacklisted during McCarthyism for refusing to testify. He has two brothers: actor Chris Penn and musician Michael Penn.

Penn launched his career in the film Fast Times at Ridgemont High in the role of Spicolli, and has since starred in over 40 movies and won an Oscar for Mystic River. He has also been nominated for three other Academy Awards for his roles in the films I Am Sam, Sweet and Lowdown and Dead Man Walking).

In 1991, Penn made his directorial debut with The Indian Runner, a film based on Bruce Springsteen's song Highway Patrolman from the Nebraska (album). He has since directed two more films, both starring Jack Nicholson, The Crossing Guard in 1995 and The Pledge in 2001.

Penn's personal life has been a volatile one. He married pop star Madonna in 1985, a relationship marred by violent outbursts against the press intrusion into his life, including one incident for which he was arrested. After a divorce in 1989, Penn started a relationship with Robin Wright, with whom he had two children before marrying her in 1996.

On October 18, 2002, Penn placed an $56,000 advertisement in the Washington Post asking President Bush to end a cycle of violence. It was written as an open letter and referred to the planned attack on Iraq and the War on Terror. In the letter, Penn also criticised 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, largely eschewing meetings with the press.

On April 10, 2003, Penn's limited-edition 1987 Buick Grand National, with two firearms in the trunk, was stolen in Berkeley, California. Penn came under criticism that his gas-guzzling car and gun ownership did not jibe with his advocacy of liberal causes. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sean_Penn [Apr 2005]


  1. Bad Boys (1983) - Rick Rosenthal [DVD, Amazon US] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    Sean Penn delivered a star-making one-two punch in the early '80s, debuting as stoner Jeff Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High and turning up only a few months later, all but unrecognizable, as a steel-nerved teenage convict in this raw, powerful prison drama--and both performances hold up remarkably well. While the story line of Bad Boys has the familiar contours of classic jailhouse melodrama (Penn's fearless Mick stands tall against a bullying Latino gang boss played by Esai Morales), the sense of tightly wound raw force the actor conveys is so convincing that it's actually a little scary. It goes way beyond the blunt-force impact of a standard action star; Mick's acts of violence are expressions of personality, practically eruptions of his life force. The authenticity of this portrayal is reinforced by the closely observed production design: the youth-prison set is so cunningly textured that many moviegoers took it for the real thing. Ally Sheedy also made her film debut in Bad Boys, as the girl Mick leaves behind on the outside. --David Chute for Amazon.com

  2. The Falcon and the Snowman (1985) - John Schlesinger (1985) [Amazon.com]
    Timothy Hutton and Sean Penn play two young men from wealthy families who sell government secrets to the Russians. Based on the true story of Christopher Boyce (Hutton) and Daulton Lee (Penn), this is sometimes edgy, occasionally humorous, and ultimately heartbreaking. Boyce, whose job it is to guard top-secret government papers, becomes disillusioned with the United States and decides to make a deal with the Soviets. His partner in espionage is propelled by less-ideal reasons for his acts, as Penn plays a grungy drug addict in it for the money. An intelligent script is matched on two counts: by John Schlesinger's tight direction and by provocative performances by both actors. --Rochelle O'Gorman

  3. At Close Range (1986) - James Foley [1 DVD, Amazon US]
    One of the overlooked films of the 1980s, perhaps because it is such a downbeat tale of an amoral family. Sean Penn plays a kid whose small-time criminal impulses are stoked to a new level when he falls in with his father (Christopher Walken), a vicious career criminal for whom no problem is so large that it can't be solved by a murder. At first exhilarated by the attention from his father (and the jobs he gives him to do), he gradually catches on to just what a bad guy Dad really is. But when he tries to extricate himself, he discovers that Dad now has him squarely in his sights. Penn is terrific in a role of emotional complexity, while Walken, king of the creeps, is positively frightening as this soft-spoken but highly lethal patriarch. --Marshall Fine for Amazon.com

  4. Sweet and Lowdown (1999) - Woody Allen [DVD, Amazon US]
    Woody Allen makes beautiful music but only fitful comedy with his story of "the second greatest guitar player in the world." Sean Penn plays Emmett Ray, an irresponsible, womanizing swing guitar player in Depression-era America who is guided by an ego almost as large as his talent. "I'm an artist, a truly great artist," he proclaims time and time again, and when he plays, soaring into a blissed-out world of pure melodic beauty, he proves it. Samantha Morton almost steals the film as his mute girlfriend Hattie, a sweet Chaplinesque waif who loves him unconditionally, and Uma Thurman brings haughty moxie to her role as a slumming socialite and aspiring writer who's forever analyzing Emmett's peculiarities (like taking his dates to shoot rats at the city dump). The vignettelike tales are interspersed with comments by jazz aficionados and critics, but this is less a Zelig-like mockumentary than an extension of the self-absorbed portraits of Deconstructing Harry and Celebrity. The lazy pace drags at times and the script runs dry between comic centerpieces--the film screams for more of Allen's playful invention--but there's a bittersweet tenderness and an affecting vulnerability that is missing from his other recent work. Shot by Zhao Fei (The Emperor and the Assassin, Raise the Red Lantern), it's one of Allen's most gorgeous and colorful films in years, buoyed by toe-tapping music and Penn's gruffly charming performance. --Sean Axmaker for Amazon.com

  5. The Pledge - Sean Penn [1 DVD, Amazon US]
    [...] As in Sean Penn's previous work, this is an actors' piece. Nicholson plays Jerry with restlessness under his easy-going, smiling calm; his patient fisherman's heart leaps at every nibble while he casts for a murder suspect. And Del Toro, Helen Mirren, Vanessa Redgrave, and Mickey Rourke make striking impressions in their single-scene appearances. Penn is less concerned with the mystery than the emotional turmoil and Jerry's state of mind, interrupting moments of calm with jagged cuts and discomforting images (including some especially disturbing crime scene photos). Jerry's instincts and methods are sound and his sensitivity is real--he takes in a battered single mom (Robin Wright Penn) and her little girl, and develops a rewarding family life--but his passion for justice turns to unhealthy, destructive obsession. That's ultimately what we're left with at the conclusion of this often off-putting but ultimately fascinating film. The truth will not always set you free. --Sean Axmaker

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