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Sean Penn
Sean Penn

Paul Rivers

In a career spanning over two decades, Sean Penn has become an American film icon. At the 2003 Venice International Film Festival, he was named Best Actor for his performance in 21 Grams.

He has been nominated three times for the Best Actor Academy Award, for his performances in Jessie Nelson's I am Sam, Woody Allen's Sweet and Lowdown, and Tim Robbins' Dead Man Walking. The latter two performances also earned him Golden Globe Award nominations, and he received a third Golden Globe Award nomination for his work in Brian De Palma's Carlito's Way. He has also received two SAG Award nominations (for I am Sam and Dead Man Walking).

Mr. Penn made his feature film acting debut in 1981 in Harold Becker's Taps. In 1982, he entered the pop-culture lexicon with his portrayal of Jeff Spicoli in Amy Heckerling's Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

He went on to appear in memorable roles in such films as John Schlesinger's The Falcon and the Snowman, James Foley's At Close Range, Dennis Hopper's Colors, Brian De Palma's Casualties of War Phil Joanou's State of Grace, David Fincher's The Game, and Anthony Drazan's screen version of hurlyburly (for which he was named Best Actor at the 1998 Venice International Film Festival).

Mr. Penn expanded his role in the filmmaking process with the creation of his own production company, Clyde Is Hungry Films. Through this company, he has produced and costarred in Erin Dignam's Loved, executive-produced and starred in Nick Cassavetes' She's So Lovely (for which he was named Best Actor at the 1997 Cannes International Film Festival), starred in Oliver Stone's U Turn, and produced and directed the critically acclaimed The Pledge, starring Jack Nicholson.

His feature film directorial debut was 1991's The Indian Runner, which he also wrote and produced. His next film as director, 1995's The Crossing Guard, featured acclaimed portrayals by Jack Nicholson, David Morse, and Anjelica Huston (who received Golden Globe Award and SAG Award nominations for her performance). His fellow 21 Grams actor Benicio Del Toro appeared in both The Indian Runner and The Pledge.

Most recently, Mr. Penn wrote and directed the United States' contribution to the multipart feature 11'09"01. The project brought together 11 directors from around the world (among them 21 Grams director Alejandro González Iñárritu) to create short films in response to the horrific events of September 11th, 2001.

He has appeared onstage in productions of Alfred Hayes' Girl on the Via Flamina and Albert Innaurato's Earthworms in Los Angeles. On Broadway, he performed in Kevin Heelan's Heartland and John Byrne's Slab Boys. He appeared in David Rabe's hurlyburly (at the Westwood Playhouse) and Goose and Tom-Tom (at Lincoln Center), directed by the author in both productions. More recently, Mr. Penn starred opposite Nick Nolte and Woody Harrelson in The Late Henry Moss, written and directed by Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Sam Shepard.

In 2002, he was presented with the Modern Master Award at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

He will soon be seen in Clint Eastwood's Mystic River (which world-premiered at the 2003 Cannes International Film Festival). Mr. Penn recently completed filming Niels Mueller's The Assassination of Richard Nixon (again starring opposite his fellow 21 Grams actor Naomi Watts).