Sean Penn

Sean Penn

Sean Penn and Bono (Cannes Film Festival 2008)

Sean Penn (born August 17, 1960) is an Academy Award- and Golden Globe-winning American film actor and director. He has also been nominated for three other Academy Awards in recognition of his roles in I Am Sam, Sweet and Lowdown and Dead Man Walking. In 2004, he was invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He is also well-known for his political activism and support of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.


Early life

Penn was born in Los Angeles County, California, the son of Leo Penn, an actor and director, and Eileen Ryan (née Annucci), an actress. He has one living brother, musician Michael Penn. Another brother, actor Chris Penn, died in 2006. His paternal grandparents were Jewish immigrants from Lithuania and Russia. Penn's mother is a Roman Catholic of Italian and Irish descent. According to Penn's mother, Leo Penn had distant Spanish ancestry, as the family's surname was originally "Piñón". Penn was raised in a secular home and is an Agnostic.


Penn appeared in a 1974 episode of Little House on the Prairie as a then blonde-haired extra because his dad, Leo Penn, directed some of the episodes. Penn launched his career with the 1981 film Taps, followed a year later with the comedy Fast Times at Ridgemont High in the role of Jeff Spicoli and has since starred in over forty movies. In 1983, Penn turned in one of his best early performance as Mick O'Brien, a troubled youth in the drama Bad Boys. It earned Penn favorable reviews and jump started his career as a serious actor.

In 1985, Penn gave a memorable performance in the role of Andrew Daulton Lee in The Falcon and the Snowman. Lee was a former drug dealer by trade, convicted of espionage for the Soviet Union and was originally sentenced to life in prison. Lee was paroled in 1998. According to an April 8, 2005, interview in The Guardian, Penn later hired Lee as his personal assistant, partly because he wanted to reward Lee for allowing him to play Lee in the film, and also because he was a firm believer in rehabilitation and thought Andrew Lee should be reintegrated into society now that he is a free man again.

In 1986 he starred in the drama At Close Range, opposite Christopher Walken. The film was based on a true story and gained positive reviews from critics. Fans and critics noticed the change in Penn's body build. Penn appeared very muscular and in shape. It's considered to be the first film to cash in on Penn's status as a sex symbol. The film featured his then wife Madonna's single Live to Tell. The music video for the song featured clips from the movie. The video played heavily on MTV and the music video helped promote the film.

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 also directed music videos, such as: Shania Twain's "Dance with the One That Brought You" in 1993 and Peter Gabriel's "The Barry Williams Show" in 2002. He also appeared on an episode of Viva La Bam in 2004 with his son Hopper. He has since directed three more films: The Crossing Guard in 1995, The Pledge in 2001, and the critically acclaimed Into the Wild in 2007.

Penn is currently set to star in Gus Van Sant's bio-pic Milk. Penn will play real life gay rights icon Harvey Milk. The film is scheduled to start filming in January 2008.

Personal life

Penn was supposedly engaged to actress Elizabeth McGovern, his co-star in 1984's Racing with the Moon, after which he dated Susan Sarandon. Penn's personal life began to attract media attention when he married pop star Madonna in 1985. The relationship was marred by violent outbursts against the press, including one incident for which he was arrested for beating a photographer. It is also suggested that when Penn discovered the paparazzo in his hotel room, he hung him by his ankles from the ninth-floor balconly. Madonna dedicated her third studio album, True Blue to Penn, referring to him in the liner notes as "the coolest guy in the universe". Later in the marriage, Penn was charged with felony domestic assault, a charge for which he pleaded to a misdemeanor. Penn and Madonna divorced in 1989.

He soon began a relationship with Robin Wright, and their first child, Dylan Frances, was born in 1991. Their second child, Hopper Jack, was born in 1993. The two visited their cousins the Shannon's in 1998. They were great friends with Will and Chris Shannon. Penn and Wright married in 1996 and lived in Ross, California. On December 27, 2007, the couple's representative announced that the Penns were divorcing. However, on April 9, 2008, it was announced that the couple had ended their divorce proceedings.

During a separation from Wright in the mid 1990s, Penn dated singer and songwriter Jewel Kilcher. He was also the director of the original video for Kilcher's hit song "You Were Meant For Me".

He is good friends with Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich and he introduced the band at their MTV Icon Induction Ceremony in 2003.

On April 10, 2003, Penn's 1987 Buick Grand National was stolen in Berkeley, California, with two firearms in the trunk. Sean also has a 1968 Chevrolet El Camino.

Along with Johnny Depp, Mick Hucknall, and John Malkovich, Penn is a part-owner of the Parisian restaurant-bar Man Ray.

His younger brother, Chris, famous for playing Nice Guy Eddie in Reservoir Dogs, died from an enlarged heart (drug induced) in his Santa Monica condominium on January 24, 2006.

He was a teaching Fellow for Acting and Directing at Dartmouth College, where he taught Kai Wong and Henry Gummer, son of Meryl Streep.

Political and social causes

Criticism of President Bush

On October 18, 2002, Penn placed a US$56,000 advertisement in the Washington Post asking President George W. 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 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.

This advertisement was cited as a primary reason for the development of his friendship with Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez. Hugo Chávez has also used and read aloud an open letter Sean Penn wrote to President Bush in one of his recent televised speeches. The letter condemned the Iraq War, called for President Bush to be impeached, and also called President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice "villainously and criminally obscene people". Chávez also said in the same televised speech "Welcome to Venezuela, Mr. Penn. What drives him is consciousness, the search for new paths," and also "He's one of the greatest opponents of the Iraq invasion."

On August, 2007, Penn met with Hugo Chávez in Caracas for two hours. Chávez praised his bravery in urging Americans to impeach President Bush. Chávez also said Penn "made great films" and that he was "well-informed". Penn also visited a new film studio on the outskirts of Caracas, though he did not speak publicly.

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 a forum hosted by the Progressive Democrats of America. He was joined by author and media critic Norman Solomon, Democratic congressional candidate Charles Brown, and activist Cindy Sheehan. The "Out of Iraq Forum" was attended by 200 individuals and took place in Sacramento, California. The program was moderated by Bill Dursten, President of the Sacramento Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility. The forum was held at a SEIU union hall and was organized to promote the anti-war movement calling for an end to the War in Iraq. Progressive activists, Democratic Party leaders, and other individuals gathered to demonstrate their impatience and frustration with U.S. involvement in Iraq.

In 2005, Penn appeared at the ACLU of Northern California's annual Bill of Rights Day Celebration to present Sister Helen Prejean with the Chief Justice Earl Warren Civil Liberties Award for her work opposing the death penalty.

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 President 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 10,000,000, to Stephen Colbert's 1.

On December 7, 2007, Penn said he is supporting Ohio Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich for U.S. President in 2008, and criticized President Bush's handling of the Iraq war. Penn questioned whether Bush's twin daughters supported the war in Iraq.

Hurricane Katrina

In September 2005, Penn traveled to New Orleans, Louisiana, to aid Hurricane Katrina victims. He was physically involved in rescuing people. He was and is supported by best-selling author Douglas Brinkley, a professor of history at Tulane University and archival historian for the city. The two were seen on CNN coverage September 2, 2005, as Penn, filthy, soaked, and exhausted, gave an impromptu interview about what he was seeing and doing, and obviously critical of the response until that time, stating that at that time he felt there was only "about one-fifth" the assistance and resources there that needed to be.

Filmography and awards

On December 18, 2006, Penn received the Christopher Reeve First Amendment Award from the Creative Coalition. (Credit: Wikipedia).

Press Release




Cannes, FR May 14, 2008 - This year at the 61st Cannes Film Festival 2008, Penn, as President of the Cannes Jury, will be presenting a project that he hopes every person will view. In an unprecedented Special Presidential Jury Screening hosted by Penn, THE THIRD WAVE, a film directed by Alison Thompson, will have its international premiere at Cannes. Chronicling the journey of four volunteers from around the world who came together after the 2004 Asian tsunami disaster and raced off to Sri Lanka to help, the film provides an insight to volunteerism and what really happens on the ground after a disaster.

"THE THIRD WAVE is truly a must-see for ourselves, our children and everyone we know, for anyone who has two good legs and a dollar in their pocket," states Penn. "It inspires the very best in us, just when we need that most. It comes as close to answering our purpose in life as any film in recent memory."

Directed by Alison Thompson and produced by Oscar Gubernati, THE THIRD WAVE captures the volunteers’ efforts in helping the already poverty stricken Sri Lanka in the midst of utter turmoil. They rented a van, filled it with supplies, and drove along the coast, stumbling onto Peraliya, a tribal village that was totally devastated by a 40-foot tsunami wave, leaving more than 2500 people dead.

The volunteers set up a first aid station and quickly find themselves in charge of a refugee camp caring for over three thousand people. What was originally a two-week journey spirals into a year long odyssey of hope, heartbreak and set backs as the villagers slowly begin to rise up against them when the worlds donated tsunami money never materializes. The volunteers break every rule in the Disaster Aid books and out of the rubble an entire village is re-born.

"Our hope through the film is to encourage and inspire people to give a little back to the world," comments filmmaker Thompson. "To volunteer even for just an hour, whether it is helping inner city kids or the elderly lady living next door or even with an environmental issue. As people, we have the power to impact and influence positive change."

Executive Produced by acclaimed documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock and Joe Amodei, President of Arts Alliance America, THE THIRD WAVE is a roadmap for volunteering. It chronicles that in a world of increased natural and manmade disaster, everyone is needed. No experience required.

"The film came to Morgan and I earlier this year, and we were both blown away," states Amodei. "Even though it was not a finished project and needed funding to complete, I knew that Arts Alliance America had to finance it so the world would experience what these volunteers went through. As a result, its message is extraordinary."

"THE THIRD WAVE is exactly the type of film that I want to be involved with," adds Spurlock. "It's all about doing something for someone else and if enough people see it, I think it can really make an important difference."

The Special Presidential Jury Screening of THE THIRD WAVE, a film directed by Alison Thompson, will take place on Friday, May 16 at 7:15 PM at the 61st Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France. International sales for the film are being handled directly by ContentFilm International (Black Book, Thank You for Smoking) with Cinetic Media selling North America.




David Magdael – David Magdael & Associates / 001 213 399 1434

Jill Goldstein – JGoldsteinPR / 001 212 463 7300

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Cinetic Media

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ContentFilm International

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In Cannes - 3rd floor, 2 La Croisette Judith Baugin / +33 4 93 38 58 88




Social and Community Entreprenrenrus

The Third Wave

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