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Zurich Film Festival Picks Sean Penn for its 2011 Golden Icon Award

Indiewire By Indiewire Staff | Indiewire August 19, 2011 at 3:20AM

Next month, Sean Penn will be honored with the Zurich Film Festival’s Golden Icon Award.
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Next month, Sean Penn will be honored with the Zurich Film Festival’s Golden Icon Award.

Given in recognition of Penn’s acting achievements, the festival representatives also identify Penn’s directing work, as well as his journalistic and humanitarian efforts.

The celebration will take place toward the middle of the festival, on September 28, with festivities that including a screening of his 2007 film “Into the Wild” as well as a compilation of highlights from his acting résumé.

Penn will be the fourth recipient of the Golden Icon award, following previous winners Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman and Sylvester Stallone.

“This Must Be the Place,” featuring Penn’s next starring effort, premiered at Cannes and is slated for release at the end of 2011.

The Zurich Film Festival runs from September 22 - October 2.

Full release follows:

The Zurich Film Festival (ZFF) announced today that multiple Academy Award® winning actor and humanitarian Sean Penn will receive the coveted Golden Icon Award at this year’s Festival, taking place September 22nd – October 2nd. The announcement was made by ZFF Directors Karl Spoerri and Nadja Schildknecht.

Serving as the Festival’s most prestigious symbol of recognition, awarded in appreciation of the lifetime achievements of an actor or actress, the Golden Icon Award will be awarded to Mr. Penn on Wednesday, September 28th at the corso theatre. As part of the award ceremony, the Festival will pay tribute to Penn’s unprecedented achievements as a legendary actor and filmmaker and will present Penn’s most recent directorial effort, “Into the Wild”. Also, a special retrospective will be featured during the festival which will include “At Close Range,” “Dead Man Walking,” “Sweet and Lowdown,” “Mystic River” and “Milk,” among others.

Commented Spoerri, “Sean Penn is a man whose remarkable film career is matched only by his extraordinary and ongoing humanitarian pursuits that have helped improve so many lives. On screen, and off, Sean has a legendary presence and is revered around the world. He is one of the finest actors of our generation and defines the term icon. We are both honored and excited to have him attend the Zurich Film Festival and accept the Golden Icon Award.”

Two-time Academy Award® winner Sean Penn has become an American film icon in a career spanning nearly three decades. Penn has been nominated five times for the Academy Award® as Best Actor for "Dead Man Walking," "Sweet and Lowdown," "I Am Sam" and won his first Oscar® in 2003 for his searing performance in Clint Eastwood's "Mystic River" and his second Oscar® as Best Actor in 2009 for Gus Van Sant's "Milk." The performance as gay rights icon Harvey Milk also garnered Penn "Best Actor" awards from The Screen Actors Guild, New York Film Critics Circle and Los Angeles Film Critics Association.

Penn has also received Best Actor awards at the Cannes ("She's So Lovely") and Berlin ("Dead Man Walking") Film Festivals, as well as being a two-time winner of Best Actor honors at the Venice Film Festival ("Hurlyburly," "21 Grams"). Penn can currently be seen in Terrence Malick's drama "The Tree of Life" opposite Brad Pitt and the upcoming Paolo Sorrentino "This Must Be The Place." Both films premiered at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival.

Penn's feature film directorial debut came with 1991's "The Indian Runner," which he also wrote and produced. In 1995, he directed "The Crossing Guard," which he also wrote and produced. His third film as director/producer was 2001's "The Pledge" starring Jack Nicholson and was named in the Top Ten Films of 2001 by The National Board of Review. Since then, Penn wrote and directed the United States contribution to the compilation film "11'09'01." This important project gathered 11 acclaimed directors from around the world to create short films in response to the horrific events of September 11, 2001. In 2003 the film was nominated for a French Cesar in the best European Union Film category and received a special recognition award from the National Board of Review. As writer, producer and director, "Into the Wild" marked Penn's fourth feature film, which opened to rave reviews in September 2007. The film, based on Jon Krakauer's best-selling non-fiction book, premiered at the Telluride and Toronto Film Festivals and appeared on many lists of the top ten films of 2007.

Penn has appeared on stage in productions including Alfred Hayes' "Girl on the Via Flaminia" and Albert Innaurato's "Earthworms In Los Angeles." On Broadway, Penn performed in Kevin Heelan's "Heartland" and John Byrne's "Slab Boys." He appeared in David Rabe's "Hurlyburly," at the Westwood Playhouse, and "Goose and Tom Tom," at Lincoln Center, both productions directed by the author. Most recently, Penn starred opposite Nick Nolte and Woody Harrelson in "The Late Henry Moss," written and directed by Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Sam Shepard.

In 2002, Sean Penn was presented with the Modern Master Award at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, and in 2003, became the youngest recipient to ever receive the Donostia Lifetime Achievement Award from the San Sebastian Film Festival. In 2004, he was honored with the John Steinbeck Award for outspoken torch-bearers in the creative arts. In 2008, Penn received the Desert Palm Achievement Award for Acting, after being presented in 2007 with the Director of the Year Award for "Into the Wild" from the Palm Springs International Film Festival. Penn served as President of the jury for the 2008 Cannes International Film Festival and later that year was named a Knight in the French Legion of Honor.

As a journalist, Penn has written for Time, Interview, Rolling Stone and The Nation magazines. In 2004, Penn wrote a two-part feature in The San Francisco Chronicle after a second visit to the war-torn Iraq. In 2005, he wrote a five-part feature in the same paper reporting from Iran during the election which led to the Ahmadinejad regime. Penn's landmark interviews with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, and Cuba's President Raul Castro, were published in The Nation and The Huffington Post. Penn's interview with President Castro was the first-ever interview with an international journalist.

Penn's humanitarian work has found him in New Orleans in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and more recently in earthquake-ravaged Haiti. In January 2010, Penn founded the J/P Haitian Relief Organization which focuses on medical aid, protection, and re-location. His organization is currently serving as UN IOM designated Camp Management for the largest IDP camp in Port-au-Prince and established the first emergency re-location in the country. For his efforts, Penn received the Commander's Award for Service (US Army 82nd Airborne Division), 82nd Airborne Award for Meritorious Service, the Operation Unified Response JTF Haiti Certificate from Lieutenant General, US Army Commander P.K. Keen, along with the 1st Recon 73rd Division Coin of Excellence, 2nd Brigade Combat Team Coin of Excellence, Commendation of Excellence United States Southern Command, and Award of Excellence by the Deputy Commander US Southern Command. Earlier this year, Penn was honored with the "Children's and Families Global Development Fund Humanitarian Award" presented by the Ambassador of the Republic of Haiti, Raymond A. Joseph and his wife, Lola Poisson-Joseph. In July 2010 Penn was knighted by Haitian President Rene Preval in a ceremony in Port-Au-Prince. Penn recently received the 2010 Hollywood Humanitarian Award from the Hollywood Film Festival and the 2011 Stanley Kramer Award from the Producers Guild of America.

Entering just its seventh year, the Zurich Film Festival has established itself as a marquee European Festival, discovering and promoting independent voices and talent from around the world and showcasing a diverse array of international films. ZFF continues to serve as the setting for many World and European premieres.

Established in 2008, ZFF’s Golden Icon award has previously been awarded to Sylvester Stallone (2008), Morgan Freeman (2009) and Michael Douglas (2010).

About the Zurich Film Festival:

The Zurich Film Festival was founded in October 2005 and became firmly established upon the national and international festival landscape within a very short period of time. This year’s seventh edition will again see Zurich transformed into an eleven-day film festival capital celebrating the art of film in all its facets!

The aim of the Zurich Film Festival is to offer audiences an insight into the work of young, upcoming filmmakers from around the globe and to promote the exchange of ideas between established film workers, young talent and the public.

The international competition will witness young filmmakers competing for the coveted Golden Eye – the festival’s main award. In addition to the competition, we will also present the latest films by renowned filmmakers as exclusive gala premieres. Furthermore, the New World View series will focus upon the current cinematic oeuvre of a developing film region. In the past years, we have been focusing on Israel (2008), Argentina (2009) and Australia (2010).

Numerous fringe events and parties give individuals from the field of film and movie-smitten visitors the opportunity to discuss happenings and bring the cinema day to an agreeable end in a pleasing and relaxed atmosphere

ZFF is organized by Spoundation Motion Picture GmbH, based in Zurich, in cooperation with local institutions and sponsors. The Zurich Film Festival cooperates with numerous distributors and producers from Switzerland and abroad. The idea to found a festival in Zurich came from Karl Spoerri. Today, the festival directors are Karl Spoerri (artistic director) and Nadja Schildknecht (public relations, marketing and sponsoring).

The Zurich Film Festival is generously supported by its main sponsors: Credit Suisse, Die Post, Kuoni and Audi.

For more information please visit www.zurichfilmfestival.org