Labeled "a human tempest and an actor of sizable gifts" by The New York Times, Sean Justin Penn is probably the only actor of Hollywood to gain such contrasting remark due to his bad temper and extraordinary acting talent. Aside from the ruckus he had caused toward the media, he is really one of America's best thespians for his capability of presenting any kind of roles in convincing manner so that his characters really go deep into the mind and heart of every audience. Lots of prestigious awards along with considerable recognition he has acquired throughout his career are the sufficient proof to point out that he indeed deserves all the huge accolades addressed to him.
A unique blend of Irish, Lithuanian, Russian, and Jewish ancestry, Sean was born on August 17, 1960 in Santa Monica, California as the second son of late director Leo Penn and actress Eileen Ryan. He was raised along with his two brothers, Chris Penn and Michael Penn, in different parts of California's San Fernando Valley before the family ultimately settled in Malibu. Being familiar to entertainment industry since he was merely a child, this blue-eyed boy gradually developed a deep love for acting which later led to a decision to enter the Los Angeles Repertory Theater Company, skipping his study of Auto Mechanics and Speech at Santa Monica College for two years. Conducted some physical works in the backstage, such as cleaning and carrying things, he eventually managed to be an assistant to actor/director Pat Hingle and even had the chance to direct a one-act play entitled "Terrible Jim Fitch."
Also polishing his acting skills under the guidance of veteran drama instructor, Peggy Feury, Sean took advantage of his father's profession to make his first screen appearance at age 19 through an unaccredited role in "The Voice of Tinker Jones", one of the episodes of famous TV series "Little House on The Prairie" (1974-1983) that Leo directed. He repeated the same formula when taking a one-line part in an episode of "Barnaby Jones" (1973-1980) and "Hellinger's Law" (1981) before acquired a supporting role in an acclaimed TV movie, "The Killing of Randy Webster" (1981). Intended to be independent in developing his career and to find better opportunity, the aspiring actor then headed for New York where he successfully encountered his film debut in Harold Becker's drama flick entitled "Taps" (1981) alongside Tom Cruise.
Sean's star started to shine brightly as he gained positive reviews for his brilliant portrayal of Jeff Spicoli in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" (1982), elevating the film to be a classic of the teen comedy genre. Throughout the year 1983-1984, he satisfyingly landed more roles, such as those in "Bad Boys" (1983), "Crackers" (1984), and "Racing with the Moon" (1984) while also was involved in love relationships with Elizabeth McGovern and Susan Sarandon. Already a celebrated rising star by the early 1985, he garnered much publicity he began to feel irritated at when he started dating Madonna after their first acquaintance during the making of "Material Girl" music video. His annoyance turned into rage as he was regularly spotted to take a swing at the prying photographers who followed him and the singer along, even once had been charged with felony domestic assault to finally receive a fine and suspended sentence.
The fury within him grew worse after he ultimately married this phenomenal pop star by August 1985 since the paparazzi continued to hound them wherever they went, making people paid more attention to his notoriety than his outstanding performances either in "The Falcon and the Snowman" (1985) or "At Close Range" (1986). Sean's violent outbursts to the media afterwards culminated in the attack to an extra who was taking photos without permission on the set of his next project, "Colors" (1988), which led him to wind up in L.A. County jail for 32 days. Unable to stand his bad temper also being reported to experience spousal abuse, Madonna concluded to file for divorce in January 1989, thus officially separated from him eight months later. Despite the arrest and breaking-up, his acting career went unaffected so that he managed to finish the '80s smoothly through his 1989 films entitled "Casualties of War" and "We're No Angels."
Sean started 1990s with his appearance as Terry Noonan in the gritty gangster flick, "State of Grace" (1990) alongside Ed Harris, Gary Oldman, and Robin Wright. Attracted to the latter member of the film cast, he quickly embarked on a new romance before decided to live together with her in 1991 while welcoming their first child, a daughter named Dylan Frances Penn on April 13 the same year. The couple then had an on-off relationship for the next several years since he later dated Canadian singer Jewel Kilcher although Robin had given him a son, Hopper Jack Penn, on August 6, 1993, but they eventually tied the knot on April 27, 1996. As for his career, Sean delightfully strengthened his existence in Hollywood film industry with a string of fantastic enactments in first-class films, like "Carlito's Way" (1993), "She's So Lovely" (1997), "The Game" (1997), and "The Thin Red Line" (1998).
However, what definitely enhanced Sean's status as a versatile and accomplished actor in Hollywood was his superb achievement to earn Best Actor nomination at the Academy Awards for two times, which were in 1996 and 2000, through "Dead Man Walking" (1995) and "Sweet and Lowdown" (1999). Within three years after the release of "Lowdown", he again gained the same nomination at the 2002 event for his amazing portrayal as a mentally disabled father fighting for custody of his daughter, played by Dakota Fanning, in "I Am Sam" (2001). It was not until the year of 2004 that he finally brought home the prestigious award through Clint Eastwood's "Mystic River" (2003) along with a Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama. Also cast in "It's All About Love" and "21 Grams" which came up in the same year with " River", he continued exhibiting his quality as an A-list actor in "The Assassination of Richard Nixon" (2004), "The Interpreter" (2005), and "All the King's Men" (2006).
Not only appeared in big screen features, Sean has also been involved in some stage productions, beginning from the year 1980 in which he joined the cast of "Earthworms", then followed by "Heartland" (1981), "The Slab Boys" (1983), "Hurlyburly" (1988), and "The Late Henry Moss" (2000) opposite Nick Nolte. Apart from his acting career, he has ventured into writing and directing films, starting boldly in 1991 with "The Indian Runner" which starred by Viggo Mortensen, Dennis Hopper, and Patricia Arquette. He later took the producer seat when helmed "The Crossing Guard" (1995) and since then has taken the same position in some big screen productions, such as "Loved" (1997), "She's So Lovely" (1997) and "The Pledge" (2001). In addition, he was known as a supporter for anti-war movement, asking President George W. Bush to end a cycle of violence concerning his plan to attack Iraq through a $56,000 advertisement in the Washington Post on October 18, 2002.
Back to his path in acting field, the road turned out to delightfully keep going smooth enough for Sean to undergo at least for the rest of the first decade of 2000s. While 2007 found him taking director's chair in "Into the Wild" besides his voicing stint for the English-language version of animated "Persepolis", 2008 would appear to spot the man showing up as himself in Warner Bros. Pictures release of "What Just Happened?", which also featured other A-list thespians such as Robert De Niro, Bruce Willis, and Catherine Keener as well as his dear wife. Not only that, there would also be other appearances in "Tree of Life" and "Crossing Over" before that of "Milk" (2009), a Gus Van Sant-directed biopic of the U.S.' first openly gay elected official, Harvey Milk.