The first time I saw Sean Penn was in BAD BOYS, after which a magazine wrote a cover story about him entitled “Son of DeNiro” (with whom he shares an August 17 birthday) and cited him as ushering in a new generation of realist actors. He’s been true to form ever since, transforming the full spectrum of his being, head, toe and heart, into every character he plays. From Jeff Spicoli in FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH to his Academy Award-winning performance as Jimmy Markum in “Mystic River” one can’t find the seam between where Sean lives and the performance begins.
Every time I try to declare my favorite Sean Penn performance, I get caught up in a sizzling potpourri of 21 GRAMS, HARVEY MILK, MYSTIC RIVER, FALCON & THE SNOWMAN, CARLITO’S WAY, AT CLOSE RANGE… I challenge you to find just one favorite.
Behind the camera, Sean Penn has given us complex stories and characters rarely explored on the big screen. My personal favorite is INTO THE WILD chronicling the journey of a college student’s cross-country odyssey to find himself. Though the story ends on a quote-unquote tragic note for the audience, it was evident that the character had fulfilled his mission of being one with the cycle of life greater than human spectrum.
I am proud to be part of a “Timeless Generation of 50-Somethings” who, while operating in an often trivial techno-driven age, use new media tools to uphold the values and human rights instilled in us before such technology existed. For this, Sean Penn is one of the few famous people I enjoy watching when he’s being himself. Though I’m still tempted to regress to the twenty-something groupie I was when I first saw BAD BOYS three decades ago, he won my deepest respect as a humanitarian when he moved into a tent to help rebuild Haiti after their devastating earthquake. (Even grungy, he’s still not hard on the eyes…)
Well versed in social issues, Sean brings his creative sensibilities and insights to the table, while driving nails into the wall of a new house.
In an imdb quote, he states, “Your life is what you bring to any story. This is a life craft. It’s ‘How do you feel? Who are you? What do you have to say?’”
So Happy Birthday, Sean, wit’ yo’ bad self!