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By Steve McGarry
Dec 30, 2012
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Steve McGarry
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Sean Penn

Born in Burbank, California, on August 17, 1960, Sean Penn is the brother of musician Michael and the late actor Christoper.  Their late father, Leo Penn, was an actor and director of stage, film and television.  Sean appeared in a 1974 episode of TVs "Little House on the Prairie" directed by his dad.  By the time he starred with his mother, actress Eileen Ryan, in 1986's "At Close Range" - a movie in which she played his grandmother - Sean was a rising star, thanks to such roles as military cadet Dwyer in "Taps," the surfer Spicoli in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" and the shady Daulton Lee in the 1985 John Schlensinger espionage thriller "The Falcon and the Snowman."  During his tempestuous four-year marriage to Madonna, Sean's running battles with the tabloid press landed him in trouble with the law and earned the couple - who starred together in the critically mauled "Shanghai Surprise" - the nickname "the Poison Penns."  Following their 1989 divorce, he became romantically involved with actress Robin Wright.  They married in 1996 and have two children together, although the on-off relationship eventually ended in divorce in 2010.

His career went into overdrive in the mid-1990s.  After his Golden Globe-nominated performance in 1993's "Carlito's Way," he earned Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for his haunting performance in "Dead Man Walking."  Two more Oscar nominations followed, for "Sweet and Lowdown" and "I Am Sam," before he won the best actor Oscar for the 2003 thriller "Mystic River."  Five years later, his portrayal of real-life San Francisco politician Harvey Milk brought him a second Academy Award.  Penn, whose latest starring role is in "Gangster Squad," has also tried his hand at directing, helming such films as "The Indian Runner," "The Crossing Guard" and "Into the Wild," and a number of music videos.

Away from the entertainment industry, Sean Penn has established a reputation as a dedicated and committed political and social activist.  Although some causes have courted controversy, his efforts on behalf of the 2010 Haitian Earthquake refugees garnered widespread respect.
Jan 13, 2013
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