Celebs » Sean Penn » Biography

Sean Penn Biography

Sean Justin Penn is an American film actor. He is also a filmmaker, political activist and member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences since 2004. He won an Academy Award for Best Actor and a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor for his role in Mystic River and a Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Actor for his performance in Milk.

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 Catholic of Italian and Irish descent. According to Penn's mother, Leo Penn may have had distant Spanish ancestry, as the family's surname was originally "Piñón". Penn was raised in a secular home and is an Agnostic.

Acting Career

Penn appeared in a 1974 episode of Little House on the Prairie as a then blond-haired extra when his father, Leo, directed some of the episodes. Penn launched his career with the 1981 film Taps, followed a year later with the hit comedy Fast Times at Ridgemont High (in the role of stoner Jeff Spicoli).

Penn's portrayal of Spicoli was immensely popular and the film remained his most commercially successful work for many years. 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 favourable 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. The film featured his then wife Madonna's single "Live to Tell". The music video for the song, which featured clips from the film, played heavily on MTV and helped promote the film.

The academy first recognized his work playing a racist murderer on death row in Tim Robbins' 1995 drama Dead Man Walking. Penn was noted in 1999 for his comedic performance as an egotistical jazz guitarist in the Woody Allen's Sweet and Lowdown. He received his third nomination in 2001 after portraying a mentally-handicapped father in I am Sam.

In 2003, Penn finally won for his role in Clint Eastwood's Boston crime-drama Mystic River. In 2004, he played a disturbed man bent on killing the president in The Assassination of Richard Nixon. He received his fifth and most recent nomination for his role as Harvey Milk in the 2008 film Milk.

Penn's interest in progressive or liberal politics is reflected in some of his film roles. In 2006, he portrayed populist governor Willie Stark (based on Huey Long) in an adaptation of the classic American novel All the King's Men, though the film was a critical and commercial failure.

In November 2008, Penn earned rave reviews for his portrayal of real-life gay rights icon and politician Harvey Milk in the biopic Milk and was nominated for best actor for the 2008 Independent Spirit Awards.


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 has since directed three more films, all of which were well-received by critics: The Crossing Guard in 1995, The Pledge in 2001, and Into the Wild in 2007.

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 violently beating a photographer.

It is also suggested that when Penn discovered the paparazzi in his hotel room, he hung him by his ankles from the ninth-floor balcony. 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. 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, they later stopped divorce proceedings in April 2008.

During a separation from Wright in the mid 1990s, Penn dated singer and songwriter Jewel. He was also the director of the original video for Jewel's hit song "You Were Meant for Me". Penn's younger brother, Chris, who played "Nice Guy Eddie" in Reservoir Dogs, died from an enlarged heart (drug induced) in his Santa Monica condominium on January 24, 2006.

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

Political And Social Causes

Penn has been active in supporting several political and social causes.

Criticism Of President Bush

On October 18, 2002, Penn placed a US$56,000 advertisement in the Washington Post asking former 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 Iran briefly in December 2002.

This advertisement was cited as a primary reason for the development of his friendship with Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez. Chávez used and read aloud an open letter Sean Penn wrote to Bush in one of his televised speeches. 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".

In August 2007, Penn met with Chávez in Caracas for two hours, after which Chávez praised his bravery in urging Americans to impeach Bush. 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. Later 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 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", which took place in Sacramento, California, was organized to promote the anti-war movement calling for an end to the War in Iraq.

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 Stephen 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.

In August 2008, Penn made an appearance at one of Ralph Nader's 'Open the Debates' Super Rallies. He protested the political exclusion of Nader and other third parties. In October 2008, Penn travelled to Cuba, where he met with and interviewed President Raúl Castro.
Hollywood Best of 2018

Get all the buzzing scoop from the world of entertainment - Filmibeat

Notification Settings X
Time Settings
Clear Notification X
Do you want to clear all the notifications from your inbox?
Settings X
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. This includes cookies from third party social media websites and ad networks. Such third party cookies may track your use on Filmibeat sites for better rendering. Our partners use cookies to ensure we show you advertising that is relevant to you. If you continue without changing your settings, we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies on Filmibeat website. However, you can change your cookie settings at any time. Learn more