Sean Justin Penn (born August 17, 1960) is an American actor, filmmaker, and political activist. He has won two Academy Awards, for his roles in the mystery drama Mystic River (2003) and the biopic Milk (2008).
Penn began his acting career in television with a brief appearance in a 1974 episode of Little House on the Prairie, directed by his father Leo Penn. Following his film debut in 1981’s drama Taps and a diverse range of film roles in the 1980s, including Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Penn garnered critical attention for his roles in the crime dramas At Close Range (1986), State of Grace (1990) and later Carlito’s Way (1993). He became known as a prominent leading actor with the 1995 drama Dead Man Walking, 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 of 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 (2003).
Penn made his feature film directorial debut with 1991’s The Indian Runner, followed by the drama film The Crossing Guard (1995) and the mystery film The Pledge (2001). In 2002, Penn directed one of the 11 segments of 11’09″01 September 11, a compilation film made in response to the September 11 attacks. His fourth feature film, the biographical drama survival movie Into the Wild (2007), garnered critical acclaim and two Academy Award nominations.
In addition to his film work, Penn is known for his political and social activism, most notably his criticism of the George W. Bush administration, his contact with the Presidents of Venezuela and Cuba, and his humanitarian work in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the 2010 Haiti earthquake. Penn also attracted media attention for his previous marriages to Madonna and actress Robin Wright. In January 2016, Penn published an interview (conducted in October 2015) with Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán in Rolling Stone. Mexican authorities dismissed the level of importance given by American media to Penn in regards to Guzman’s eventual recapture, instead placing importance on actress Kate del Castillo’s continued communications with Guzman.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Career
- 2.1 Acting
- 2.2 Directing
- 3 Personal relationships and violence issues
- 4 Activism
- 4.1 Criticism of President Bush
- 4.2 Hurricane Katrina
- 4.3 Support for same-sex marriage
- 4.4 Relief efforts following 2010 Haiti earthquake
- 4.5 Pakistan
- 4.6 Release of Jacob Ostreicher from Bolivian prison
- 5 Controversies
- 5.1 Defense of Hugo Chávez
- 5.2 Falkland Islands controversy
- 5.3 Oscar green card joke
- 5.4 Lee Daniels lawsuit
- 5.5 El Chapo Interview
- 6 Filmography
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Penn was born in Los Angeles County, California, the son of actor and director Leo Penn and actress Eileen Ryan (née Annucci). His older brother is musician Michael Penn. His younger brother, actor Chris Penn, died in 2006. His paternal grandparents were Ashkenazi Jewish emigrants from Lithuania and Russia, while his mother is a Catholic of Irish and Italian descent. Penn was raised in a secular home and attended Santa Monica High School. He began making short films with some of his childhood friends, including actors Emilio Estevez and Charlie Sheen, who lived near his home.