Sean Penn Unpacks What Really Happened with Jack Nicholson and ‘Creepy Little Bully’ Putin

"It was so needlessly aggressive," Penn said of meeting Putin in 2001 during the press tour for his film "The Pledge."
Jack Nicholson annd Sean Penn during Mick Jagger Celebrates Release of New Solo Album Goddess
Jack Nicholson and Sean Penn

Sean Penn is opening up about what he really thinks of Russian leader Vladimir Putin after meeting the dictator in 2001.

Penn detailed driving with Putin over 20 years ago after the Moscow Film Festival premiere of his neo-noir film “The Pledge.” Actor Jack Nicholson was also in attendance and the duo traveled with Putin to Oscar-winning Russian filmmaker Nikita Mikhalkov’s estate.

“We were put in a convoy. We knew that Putin was going to be the honored guest,” Penn told The Independent. “In the nature of that time and space, we accepted the invitation. We got in this convoy. And we were going as fast as they wanted to drive, with no care for whether it might have presented danger in the villages we drove through. When farmers with pony-driven carts were trying to come across, the security people in our vehicles would lean out the window to baton them away. It was so needlessly aggressive.”

Penn added that Putin was a “creepy little bully” and the car trip gave him a “cold, ugly feeling” about how Putin governed.

Nicholson allegedly offered Putin a role as a co-producer on an upcoming film at the time, with a source telling Page Six (via The Guardian) in 2001 that Putin complimented Nicholson’s performance in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”

Penn recently helmed the documentary “Superpower” about the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The actor tweeted in a since-deleted post (via Newsweek) that Putin has “made a most horrible mistake for all of humankind” of starting a war with the nation.

“President Zelensky and the Ukrainian people have risen as historic symbols of courage and principle,” Penn said. “Ukraine is the tip of the spear for the democratic embrace of dreams. If we allow it to fight alone, our soul as America is lost.”

While addressing America, Penn told The Independent that the country post-President Trump has become a “populist lap dance of a country,” adding, “When Trump came in, if he had chosen to create a new narrative for Charles Manson, people would be wearing Charlie Manson shirts like they wear Che Guevara shirts. They were just ready to go with the wind. I am not comparing us to Nazi Germany but I am giving a little understanding of what happened there.”

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