These days Sean Penn the humanitarian aid activist is trumping Sean Penn the actor. While he’s showing up to accept the Dubai International Film Festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award on December 12, recognizing his work as an actor, director, producer, screenwriter–and activist–he is not on the promo circuit for Fair Game, even though his reviews are stellar. (He may realize that as strong as the film is, it’s not an Oscar contender.)
Why is Penn MIA? Well, for one thing he’s invested in his work in support of the needy in Iran, Iraq, New Orleans and Haiti; last January he founded the J/P Haitian Relief Organization, which offers medical aid, protection and re-location and runs the largest internally displaced-persons camp in Port-au-Prince. The other reason that Penn is not pushing Doug Liman’s Valerie Plame/Joe Wilson biopic–which is a portrait of a marriage under duress as well as a window into the Bush administration and the CIA–is that the equally prickly Liman and Penn did not get along during the filming. That’s why Penn’s co-star Naomi Watts has shouldered the press burden, along with Plame and Wilson, the producers Janet and Jerry Zucker, and director Liman–who isn’t going to sell many tickets. (Here’s The Playlist interview.)
Dubai festival chairman Abdulhamid Juma describes Penn as “one of the finest talents of our generation” whose “tireless work on behalf of the people of the world from Haiti to the United States to Iraq and Iran, and his use of the celebrity spotlight to assist humanity, is an example to us all.” As part of the Penn tribute, both Into the Wild and Sweet and Lowdown will screen and Penn will participate in a pubic Q&A session at the Madinat Jumeirah. Where’s Fair Game?
Fair Game trailer.