Sean Penn biography
Date of Birth: August 17, 1960
"There's a sense of inauthenticity when you throw a punch at somebody," says Penn. "We're not meant to hurt each other. You feel stupid, even when you're right."
This is a more mellow Sean Penn talking, not the one who was briefly married to Madonna in the '80s and threw a punch at Daniel Wolinski after the songwriter platonically kissed his then wife; not the one who once earned a year's probation after beaning a British photographer with a rock; not the one who attacked two photographers he caught nosing around his New York apartment; and not even the one who pounded an extra on the set of 1987's Colors for having the temerity to snap his picture without asking permission.
Heck, it's not even the same Sean Penn who served 30 days of a 60-day jail sentence following a reckless driving citation.
No, this is a more mellow Sean Penn
who's learned to take things a little easier. "It took me some time to learn how to smell a problem and get the hell out of Dodge," he says. "But now I've been doing that pretty successfully for a long time. And I get a fair amount of privacy beyond what I would get because of the way people perceive my image."
The California native was born to an actress mother and director father. Just down the street lived the Sheen family and Sean and his brother Christopher hung out with Charlie and Emilio, occasionally making their own movies with Super-8 cameras.
Believe it or not, Penn originally thought he'd be a lawyer (let's hope not like the one he played in Carlito's Way) but had a passion to direct films and saw that the road to director probably led straight through acting.
After studying acting for a while under coach Peggy Feury, he joined the Los Angeles Repertory Theater, where he quickly moved from the stage to TV and finally into feature films with 1981's Taps. It was his role as the dope smoking loser in Fast Times At Ridgemont High that catapulted Penn out of the ranks of those who wait and into a rising star.
After his directorial debut with The Indian Runner —a film he also produced and scripted—he announced his acting days were over and from now on he'd be a director only. But he, thankfully, hasn't been as good as his word and even Penn would have to say it was a bit of a worthwhile trip to backslide into acting when he garnered an Oscar nomination for his work in Dead Man Walking .
Don't really expect him to completely give up acting any time soon, but also make no doubt that he really wants to direct. "It's a lot of fun to direct," he says. "It's not fun to act. Acting is the girl who's unattractive to me. I'm sorry; I know she's pretty; I recognize that beauty, and power to anybody who can go there. She just isn't for me."
In 2002, Penn earned his third Oscar nomination for his starring role as a mentally-challenged man fighting to keep custody of his seven-year-old daughter in the 2001 film I Am Sam . In 2003, he won a Volpi Cup for Best Actor at the Venice Film Festival for his role in 21 Grams (2003). In 2004, he won his first Golden Globe award as well as his fourth Oscar nomination and first win for his stellar leading performance in Clint Eastwood's Mystic River (2003). In 2009, he won a second Oscar, this time for his portrayal of gay politician Harvey Milk in Milk (2008). Penn can be seen playing a 1940s mafia leader in Gangster Squad (2013). More recently, he starred in The Gunman (2015).
Following a brief but volatile marriage to Madonna, Penn married actress Robin Wright in April 1996. They have two children together, but their marriage also ended in divorce in 2010. He is currently dating Charlize Theron.