Start - Biography - Part I - Part II - 1989 - 2001 - Part III - Part IV - Inside The Actors Studio      



From Indian Runner to I am Sam - Brilliance in acting and directing

And then finally Sean Penn's career was taking a big step forward.
First in 1988 in Dennis Hopper's film Colors, then with films like Brian De Palma's Casualties Of War, his father's film Judgement in Berlin and the very fine film State Of Grace with Ed Harris, Gary Oldman and Sean Penn's later wife Robin Wright.

But beeing an actor was not enough for someone like Sean Penn! In 1989 he went back to the theatre for David Rabes Hurlyburly.

Sean Penn's first steps as a director led to the amazing debut with The Indian Runner - a film about two brothers with completely different characters and temper - a small, tendencyfull film with absolute maximum acting achievement of the two leading actors David Morse and Viggo Mortensen! A wonderfull directing debut for Sean Penn, who wrote the script as well, inspired by Bruce Springsteen and his song Highway Patrolman.



Together with Al Pacino he then was seen, once again directed by De Palma, in Carlitos Way. His figure, David Kleinfeld, would have been worth an Oscar nomination ... one of his best figures up to now.

Sean Penn - David Kleinfeld in 'Carlitos Way'

Is that really Sean? Sean Penn as David Kleinfeld - Carlitos Way

In the years between 1993 - 1995 Sean Penn even thought of quitting acting - but fortunately for us fans he changed his mind ... and came back with a vengeance!
With The Crossing Guard he presented in 1995 his second work as director, a sensitive drama with Jack Nicholson und again David Morse as leading actors.
Sean Penn then attracted high attention and his first oscar nomination (see Awards) with the part of the murderer on death row, Matthew Poncelet, in Tim Robbins highly respected drama Dead Man Walking.


In the time to follow Sean Penn again and again managed the balancing act between the independent, low-budget movies and the big parts in blockbusters, like The Game from the director of 'Seven', David Fincher, with Michael Douglas.

In 1998 there were three high regarded films for Sean Penn. Terrence Malicks war drama The thin red line, then the film version of the theatre play Hurlyburly, with Kevin Spacey, Chazz Palminteri and Meg Ryan as well as his wife Robin Wright and last but not least the leading part as jazz musician Emmet Ray in Woody Allens Sweet And Lowdown (1999).

For his part in 'Hurlyburly' he was awarded as best actor in Cannes and for Emmet Ray he got his second oscar nomination (see Awards).


And again he worked as director. For the drama The Pledge he could gather around him an impressive ensemble with Jack Nicholson, Vanessa Redgrave, Helen Mirren, Benicio Del Torro, Sam Shepard, Mickey Rourke, Aaron Eckhart and Harry Dean Stanton.

Stage direction for
Aaron Eckhart and Sam Shepard



Black is biutiful - Partnerlook at the premiere of 'The Pledge'
Aaron Eckhart, Sean Penn, Robin Wright Penn and Jack Nicholson

His very much deserved third oscar nomination followed the next year, for
I am Sam - a film in the tradition of Rainmain and Forrest Gump, wonderfully interpreted from Sean Penn as the mentaly retarded father Sam, who fights for custody for his daughter Lucy (introducing Dakota Fanning ). 
For the Fox studios, Sean Penn was to dark and not sympathetic enough for this part, but director and author Jessie Nelson just wouldn't do it with anybody else. 
Jessie Nelson: 'So than began a battle of my saying 'I don't want to do it with anybody else' and them telling me 'Forget it'. (...) Finally they gave me one week to set it up at another studio. And God bless New Line stepped up to the plate and we were out of jail.'
And gladly she remembers working with Sean Penn: 'Sean sort of carries the energy of whatever scene he's shooting and for the scenes that were gut-wrenching, he'd be fanning that fire all day long. I couldn't get over how much laughter he'd bring, though. Sean loves to laugh and to make other people laugh.'

I am Sam Premiere - Michelle Pfeiffer, Dakota Fanning, Sean Penn

Michelle Pfeiffer, Sean Penn 
and Dakota Fanning
at the premiere of 'I am Sam'



Oh ... speaking of the Oscars ... Well Sean Penn never attended this event. In his opinion the best acting performances were overlooked anyway.
'Im not somebody you'd want to go to most American movies with,' he once said. 'I'd really upset you. I get crazy. I feel like they're all up there saying You're an idiot! You're an idiot!'



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