He’s put notoriety

I must have something to do with turning 40.

acquiring a wife. a son and a daughter and. perhaps.

even giving up smoking that has turned Sean Penn into the very model of an easy-going interviewee.

It was not always thus. Penn. 41 in August. has had enough unwelcome publicity to last him the rest of his lifetime. rnrrch of it acquired during his volatile mid-80s marriage to Madonna. llis unbridled temper became the stuff of legend. culminating in a prison spell for punching a paparalzo who tried to take his picture on a lilrn set.

For roughly a decade he was reluctant to give interviews and when he did. he was mainly rnonosyllabic in his responses. llis air of menace and inaccessibility and a certain cool inscrutability behind the piercing blue eyes became part of his obligatory accoutrements.

llow times change. Here he is being positively affable and approachable in the hothouse atmosphere of the (‘annes

on the backburner, reigned in his anger and become a dedicated family man. Now SEAN PENN has emerged as one of America’s riskiest directorial talents and he’s

coming to Film Festival earlier this year. flanked by Robin Wright Penn. his actress spouse and the mother of his children. Edinburgh_ ‘Manying her.‘ he jokes rrrischievously. ‘was the only way

to get to her without having to deal with an agent.‘

He has. of course. a vested interest in behaving himself in the presence of the media. The Pledge. his third film as a director (alter The Indian Runner and The ('rm's'lirg (iuurd) failed miserably at the ['8 box office although it scored enviable critical plaudits. Warner Bros

Words: Richard Mowe

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Penn says he loves a ‘no good deed goes unpunished’ story

marketed it as a cop thriller for its US release back in January. He's keen to ensure that it fares better in liurope and elsewhere after litigation between Franchise Pictures and a German backer lntertainment has been resolved. Penn‘s coming to the lidinburgh International Film Festival with The Pledge. where he will also give a Reel Life masterclass.

So is he bitter'.’ 'Naw. I wouldn't say so.‘ he drawls in a voice that's surpisingly soft. ‘The moviegoing sensibility in the States. a country for which I have a certain perverse love. resembles the electoral process: they choose candidates as they choose movies. That is something you grow to accept and understand. I have found that I‘m often more appreciated outside my own country.’

Previously he might have mouthed such thoughts with a twisted venom. but they tumble out with a philosophical shrug. The Pledge. loosely based on a Friedrich Diirrenmatt novel. deals with a retired homicide detective (played by Jack Nicholson) who finds he cannot relinquish the case of a seven-year—old girl’s hon‘ilic murder and makes a solemn pledge to the girl‘s mother that he will hunt down the killer.

Penn concedes that the moral ambiguity of the film strikes chords with most of his past work. ‘I love a “no good deed goes unpunished" tale. And I never look at it as “doing a film” each time. I always look at it as part of the body of work that you do.‘