What To Do With Sean Penn?

Sean Penn has, over the thirty years of his career, managed to upset nearly everyone with his antics offscreen as much as he has enthralled them onscreen. There are times when Penn seems on the verge of a complete mental breakdown, while other moments see the actor lucid and more agreeable. His most recent round of nastiness involved an off-the-cuff remark said last week on American television. Reporter Laura Logan asked Penn about the vocal critics mocking Penn's efforts to help distressed Haitians. His reply was less than gracious:

Watch CBS News Videos Online Wishing rectal cancer on people rarely goes over well during a pleasant Sunday morning chat. A reporter from the Washington Examiner approached Penn a few days later about the remark. Penn, staring back with the glassy-eyed emptiness of a serial killer, gave another interesting response: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PRB4vdA-OmA Penn said he's no longer interested or invested in "that culture," presumably meaning the culture of Hollywood entertainment and the constant swirl controversy and innuendo that accompanies it. Anyone who saw Penn at the Oscars, with the help of these videos, might reasonably wonder what is going on in his head. Penn seems truly aggravated by his own celebrity while simultaneously using that celebrity for his own causes and personal gain. Since Penn struck gold in 1982 with his portrayal of lovable Jeff Spicoli in Fast Times At Ridgemont High. Since then he has become one of our most volatile and interesting actors. He has definitely had some missteps - I Am Sam and the whole Madonna thing were not career highlights - one look at his filmography reveals an actor with a serious mind and the ability to sniff out serious, sometimes overly-dry material. He has two Oscars on his mantle at home, revealing the respect his co-workers have for him even after all the offscreen drama. But Penn's radical behavioral swings continue to threaten the work he produces. People regularly call for boycotts of his films based on his behavior and his politics. His ability to find meaningful acting work is narrowed thanks to his difficult reputation and polarizing personality. Much like Tim Robbins, who was effectively shut out of Hollywood for a long time due to his outspokenness, Penn's great gifts to the medium are in danger of the same treatment as he allows his personal vendettas and political leanings color his work. While I have never been a rabid Penn fan, I've always admired his work (outside of I Am Sam, of course, which was truly awful). I'd hate to see such a gifted and brave actor allow himself to be swallowed up by his own emotional demons and uncontrolled behavior. Penn seems to be succumbing to the intoxicating effects of his own celebrity, where he feels that he can physically attack people at will or say awful things simply because he is famous. He seems to enjoy the fact that he can travel to other countries and visit important people like some Hollywood version of Bono. He appears to love hearing his own opinions on topics like global warming and Haitian relief. Actors act, Sean. We aren't looking to actors to solve the problems of the world. In fact, we want actors to relieve us from those problems through suspension of disbelief, not political speeches. Penn needs to concentrate on acting, and leave the politics for the politicians who are in a position to make a real change, not a Hollywood change. Penn needs to understand that, if he's not careful, his politics and unseemly behavior might do to his career what it did for Robbins or Warren Beatty. We don't see those two guys in movies anymore, and we don't hear their political ideas anymore, either. Penn might not like his celebrity status or the intrusions that come with it, but irrelevance won't prove any more helpful to his cause, either.

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All you need to know is that I love movies and baseball. I write about both on a temporary medium known as the Internet. Twitter: @rayderousse or @unfilteredlens1 Go St. Louis Cardinals! www.stlcardinalbaseball.com