Start - Biography - Part - 1960 - 1989 - Part II - Part III - Part IV - Inside The Actors Studio      



The best actor of his generation. Period.

(Art Linson, producer)

Sean Penn

born August 17, 1960

In Burbank, California, USA


Let's Party - Paparazzi - In bed with Madonna


For sure Sean Penn is not only one of the best actors and directors but also one of the most conflicting and controversial people of Hollywood.

He made his way to the movies through his family. His father, Leo Penn, was an actor and director during the McCarthy-era. And as well as many others Leo Penn also was summoned to the McCarthy forum and was questioned about his colleagues.
But he wouldn't say anything and consequently was set onto the 'Black List' as a communist.
Sean Penns mother, Eileen Ryan, is a very well known TV-actress in the United States - in the past performing in TV hits like Bonanza and today, after taking a break for nearly twenty years to raise her kids, still appearing in series like ER, Ally McBeal or CSI.


Sean Penn in "Little house on the Prairie" (1974)







Sean Penns first appearance as an actor was in 1974, together with his mother, in an episode of 'Little House on the Prarie ', followed by more appearances in television, alongside Tom Cruise, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Timothy Hutton and Anthony Edwards (Dr. Mark Greene from ER).


As time goes by ...
Sean Penn with Kevin Bacon and Val Kilmer 

But soon Sean Penn had enough of TV.
He went to New York and started to play theater. In 1981 he gave his debut in 'Heartland'.
And up to today the theater is a passion of Sean. In 2000 for example he performed together with Woody Harrelson, Nick Nolte and Cheech Marin in 'The Late Henry Moss', a theater play of Sam Shepard, who is very much admired by Sean Penn.


Let's party!


In 1981 Sean Penn also made his first movie: TAPS.
And already with his second movie he was noticed by the audience as well as by the critics. Because they all loved him as Jeff Spicoli, the surfer guy and outsider in Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
The other parts in this movie once again were played by Leigh and Edwards, as well as Judge Reinhold, Forest Whitaker and Nicolas Cage. It was probably THE teen-movie of the eighties (Hey, Bud, lets party!)!








But Sean Penn was looking for the more 'different' movies. For example in the following time in complex films as The falcon and the snowman with Timothy Hutton or Crackers under the direction of Louis Malle.

Photo left: Sean Penn as Brad Whitewood in  At close range (Photo: Joyce Rudolph from 'Sean Penn - His Life and Times')






'I hate journalists. Or better. I hate paparazzi. Yeah, I punched them out
and I'll do it again if it's necessary.'

But suddenly all this was irrelevant, because Sean Penn met Madonna Ciccone, who at that time had her first number one hit in the USA with 'Like a virgin'.
The new star in pop-heaven togehter with the new James Dean! The press went bananas! A fact Sean Penn not always could cope with. He even spent a month in jail because of assault. Well, nethertheless they got married.

And while Madonnas career was going on and on, the one of her husband seemed to fizzle out ... in fact these were the most unproductive years of Jean Penns career.
OK, there was At Close Range, a film he did with his mother Eileen Ryan, his brother Chris and Christopher Walker. And Madonna's film song, 'Live to tell', which again went number one, did a good promotion as well.
But their movie together - Shanghai Surprise - turned out to be a desaster, specially because the press was everywhere.
It was a stormy marriage all the way and ended in january 1989, when Madonna filed for divorce.




  First work as director and first Oscar nomination - Part II