Sean Penn: Necessary Actor

Necessary Actor

It was one of the more ferocious scenes in The Pledge, and when Sean Penn, who was directing it, called "Cut!," he expected Jack Nicholson to be drained to the point of dropping. But Nicholson turned to an assistant, bummed a cigarette, flashed one of his wolfish, insouciant grins and said, "We all have our little secrets, Seany." It's a story Penn likes to tell because it illustrates a point: like all other terrific actors, neither he nor Nicholson can tell you how he does what he sublimely does.

We think of Penn as an angry actor. That's not entirely...

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