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Academy Award-winning actor Sean Penn starred in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, married Madonna, and directed Jack Nicholson in two films.
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Born in California on August 17, 1960, Sean Penn began his acting career on Broadway before making his film debut in 1981's Taps. His breakout role came in 1982, when he played Jeff Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. He quickly turned to acting in and directing, starring in Dead Man Walking (1995) and She's So Lovely (1997), and writing,
producing and directing The Crossing Guard (1995) among other projects. Penn's more recent acting credits include Up in the Villa, The Weight of Water, All the King's Men, I Am Sam, Milk and Tree of Life; and directing credits include The Pledge and Into the Wild. He has won several honors as an actor and filmmakers, including two Academy Awards for best actor.
Sean Justin Penn was born on August 17, 1960, in Burbank, California. His father, Leo Penn, was an actor and director. His mother, Eileen Ryan, was an actress. Sean grew up in Los Angeles, and attended Santa Monica High School along with fellow students and future actors Emilio Estevez, Charlie Sheen and Rob Lowe.
An early interest in filmmaking, specifically directing, led to Penn's passion for acting. He moved to New York City at the age of 19 to pursue a career as an actor. He soon landed a part in a Broadway play, Heartland. In 1981, he made his film debut alongside budding star Tom Cruise and Academy Award winner Timothy Hutton in the military school drama Taps.
Penn's breakthrough role came a year later, when he played the perpetually stoned surfer Jeff Spicoli in the high school comedy Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982). He garnered acclaim for his first starring role in 1983's Bad Boys, and for the drama The Falcon and the Snowman (1985).
In 1985, Penn gained a whole new measure of fame when he married pop icon Madonna. Their tumultuous four-year marriage produced one dismal movie, 1986's Shanghai Surprise, and a barrage of tabloid headlines. Penn's "bad boy" image only increased with his continued hostility toward the aggressive paparazzi—he served 34 days in prison in 1987 for punching an extra who tried to take his picture. Penn and Madonna divorced in 1989.
In 1991, two years after earning rave reviews for his performance in Casualties of War (1989), Penn directed his first film. The feature The Indian Runner opened to a limited release in theaters, and made a meager $34,047 at the box office. Critics gave the film mild praise.
Though he previously claimed he quit acting, Penn returned to the front of the camera in 1993, playing a coke-addled criminal lawyer in De Palma's Carlito's Way, co-starring Al Pacino. His performance earned him a Golden Globe nomination for best supporting actor.
In 1995, he starred as a death row inmate searching for salvation in the film Dead Man Walking, based on the true story by Helen Prejean. The film earned Penn Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations, as well as an Independent Spirit Award.
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