January 25th, 2009
10:43 PM ET

Sean Penn: Man of few words

The backstage bursts into applause when Best Actor winner Sean Penn walks in. The first question posed is, did he have any reservations when he took the title role in "Milk?" His one word answer: "No."

What can I say, he is a man of few words! But then he opened up a bit about the film and credited most of its success to director Gus Van Sant, who, he said, was "incapable of making an irrelevant movie." He called him talented, great, and an adjective you don't hear often about a director: gentle.

Van Sant, he said, did a tremendous job of creating a positive environment for the cast. Ultimately, Penn felt it wasn't the theme or the politics that drew him to "Milk," but the script and the director.

And while Penn is definitely one of our more serious actors, there was a moment of levity: he said he realizes he's getting older every time he sees those crow's feet on the big screen! The feeling here backstage is that Penn really disappeared into the role and truly became Milk. I think the word that sums it up best for me is that is was a "winning" character and performance in every sense of the word.

soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. rebecca

    Robin Wright Penn has stood by him through all of his Shenanigans and although his acceptance speech was funny, and poignant, he did not thank her for her support. How sad...will he ever appreciate what he has in her?

    February 23, 2009 at 12:10 am | Report abuse |
  2. heidi

    There are sure a lot of people out there that seem to know Sean Penn Personally. Or at least feel comfortable saying horrible things about him even though the only thing they know about are his movies and his :"media" hype. Come on people grow up. He's MOVIES...he isn't the people he plays in real life. How would you like it if you played one role and everyone called you by that role even though it is not your name...not to mention how much charity work he does..and the fact that most of his bad-boy days are long over with. Grow up and be interested in them for what you should be interested in....how well they did in the movie..and most of the comments here indicate no one saw the darn film..I haven't either but I look forward to it eventually.

    February 7, 2009 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Sebastian

    I love all of these posts alluding to Penn being unpatriotic and a "horrible American." My favorite are the complaints alluding to Saddam Hussein.

    Brief history lesson: the American government under Reagan- who I presume many of the Penn-bashing "patriots" supported- allied itself with Saddam Hussein during his war with Iran by providing him with military, diplomatic and financial aid- then double-crossed him by selling arms to Iran through Israel (even as we were supplying weapons to Hussein...i.e. Iran-Contra). By the early 1980's it was clear that Hussein was a brutal dictator and we did business with him anyway- and we didn't even do that dirty business honorably. So let's not get carried away with the aren't-we-all-so-moral-and-decent patriotism talk. Give me a break.

    February 2, 2009 at 9:36 am | Report abuse |
  4. Nichi

    I agree almost 100% with John, who cares about their political views or comments or religion....I go to the movies to be entertained. I think Sean Penns performance was amazing, as was the movie, he deserved the SAG, and maybe the Oscar, but I want to see the Westler, because I feel Mickey Rourkes performance may be Sean Penns biggest competition.

    February 2, 2009 at 9:34 am | Report abuse |
  5. dani

    Love Penn but hope Mickey Rourke gets the Oscar for the wrestler.

    February 2, 2009 at 12:16 am | Report abuse |
  6. Gator Nation

    As mentioned in another post, he is a very good actor but a lousy human being and an even lousier American.

    January 30, 2009 at 9:04 am | Report abuse |
  7. mdegge

    Thank God he's a man of few words. Don't get me wrong, he's a great actor. He was amazing in Mystic River, but I feel like muting my TV whenever he's being interviewed or making a speech. I like him as an actor, but I can't stand him as a person.

    January 30, 2009 at 12:24 am | Report abuse |
  8. John

    I always find it interesting that many actors seem to believe that their opinion/politics/religion matters to the general public. I don't care about Penn's politics just like I don't care about Tom Cruise's religion. I just want to watch them ACT. By the way, Mickey Rourke is going to win this year's award going away.

    January 29, 2009 at 7:47 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Sean

    Lol look at all the right-wing nutjobs posting their tripe. Sean Penn is a brilliant actor, and an intelligent, compassionate human being.

    January 29, 2009 at 6:01 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Grace

    I agree to ignore Eastwood was sheer stupidity, but I think Penn is one of the best character actors around. Nice to see an actor who doesn't play almost the same character in every movie. Sean, I have great respect for your talent.

    January 29, 2009 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Andrea

    Sean Penn is a traitor to The United States of America. I would not spit on him if he was on fire.

    January 29, 2009 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
  12. Paul

    Penn is a fine actor, but I've never in my life seen anyone with such a sense of self-importance and smugness. How does he stand next to sadam hussein, a brutal dictator that murdered 300K of his own 'subjects' without throwing up?

    Sure, let's all hate Bush. But really, Hussain, Hugo Chavez, Castro? Aren't there progressive leaders he could visit that don't repress their own people, take away freedom of the press, etc.

    Is that what Penn wants for the U.S.? A repressive leftist dictatorship?

    He's all for helping the downtrodden, as we all should be, but then he is such a punk that he beats his wife!

    January 29, 2009 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
  13. Terri

    I'll take Clint Easwood. Best actor for Gran Torino.
    Remember, Aubrey. It's all political in Hollywood.
    The left wing extremists win. Sad but true.

    January 29, 2009 at 10:36 am | Report abuse |
  14. Matt

    As an actor, Sean Penn has progressed to the highest levels. As a person, he has not progressed beyond Jeff Spicoli. What a jerk.

    January 29, 2009 at 10:32 am | Report abuse |
  15. jommyrancher

    And "Milk" Will Win "Best Picture"...

    With "Milk" as a pretext, this year's Oscars will be a four-hour lecture on gay marriage; and the stupid Californians who voted it down.

    (Four hours if we're lucky! Look for every presenter and recipient to speak about Barack Obama - at length.)

    January 29, 2009 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
  16. idm

    I have to agree with Dave that Van Sant's Psycho is a pretty irrelevant film. (Even tho is stars one of my faves, Viggo Mortensen). But Sean Penn has become one of the best actors out there, and deserves all the accolades that are being given to him! Good luck at the Oscars, Sean!

    January 29, 2009 at 9:51 am | Report abuse |
  17. Dan in SD

    Good actor.
    Terrible human being.

    January 29, 2009 at 9:48 am | Report abuse |
  18. Sunny Stewart

    As someone who lived through the Harvey Milk times in San Francisco, it was wonderful to see such a heart warming and accurate portrayal of this heroic man. This movie brought tears to my eyes warmth to my heart and rekindled my activist spirit. Thank you Sean Penn!!!

    January 28, 2009 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
  19. Dave

    Didnt Gus Van Sant direct the shot-for-shot remake of Psycho with Anne Heche and Vince Vaughn? I'd say that would rank pretty high up in the realm of irrelevant films...Spicoli must've forgot that one when he made that comment.

    January 28, 2009 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
  20. Justin

    Sean Penn rocks! I hope he wins

    January 28, 2009 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
  21. Carol Rosenberg

    Sean Penn is the greatest actor working today. His range is

    unbelievable. He is also very intelligent which is rare for an actor.

    January 28, 2009 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
  22. Cheryl

    he is not gay.....just because you star in a gay movie does not make you gay!!

    January 28, 2009 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
  23. Nasir

    I meant to say "shoe-iin" not "show in"

    January 28, 2009 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
  24. Nasir

    It was an amazing performance for Mr. Penn. The film was great in many ways. He's show in for an Oscar.

    January 28, 2009 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
  25. Lani

    One of the best actors of his time! Amazing! Why does this site allow such childish postings like the one before mine? This is not USMAG for kripes sake.

    January 27, 2009 at 8:37 pm | Report abuse |
  26. Audrey

    As much I respect Sean Penn's talent and abilities, it's a bunch of you-know-what that Clint Eastwood was completely snubbed for Best Actor for Gran Torino.

    January 27, 2009 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
  27. Rote B*st*rd

    Why does Penn playing a gay character mean you assume the actor himself is a homosexual. Is it ignorance or homophobia, or were you just trying (and not really succeeding) to make a joke? If gay folks bother you that much you might want to go through your cds and randomly throw out half of them...lotsa gay people make some really popular music...and you wouldn't want people to mistake you for gay because you listen to it

    January 26, 2009 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |

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