SEAN PENN: His Life and Times

Richard T. Kelly, Author
Richard T. Kelly, Author . Canongate $24 (472p) ISBN 978-1-84195-623-7
Paperback - 484 pages - 978-1-84195-739-5
Hardcover - 448 pages - 978-0-571-21548-5
Hardcover - 484 pages - 978-0-571-21549-2
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Like its subject, Kelly's biography of the idiosyncratic Oscar winner pulses with insight. Composed as an oral history, film writer Kelly's book boasts the full participation of the actor, whose volatile relationship with the press initially gained him more fame than his talent. Penn's skills manifested themselves early on: as a 14-year-old extra for a Little House on the Prairie episode, Penn refused to eat lunch because "I thought you should stay with your character in the situation." Featuring commentary from Penn's entire family (including wife Robin Wright Penn but minus his late father, actor/director Leo Penn) and actors like Jack Nicholson and Dennis Hopper, Kelly's book forges further beyond the usual Hollywood bio by interviewing several men Penn has portrayed in film (such as convicted spy Andrew Daulton Lee, whom Penn played in 1985's The Falcon and the Snowman ). "He wants the tough substance," television executive John Sykes says, an observation that may seem obvious in light of Penn's challenging films and his burgeoning political involvement, but that in the context of this book, which also highlights Penn's repeated reluctance to act, deepens the portrait of the actor. Structured chronologically, the book may offer opportunities for Penn's less rapturous fans to skip over certain sections, but the oral history format—so well suited for a subject who engenders countless stories—is perfect here. Photos. (Nov. 29)

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