Oscars Flashback '09: Penn Responds to Protestors


If there's one thing we've learned about Sean Penn over his many years in Hollywood, it's that when something is on his mind, he's going to make it known. So, when the content of his award-winning film Milk was being protested outside the Academy Awards, he had his share of words to retort back at the mob.

In 2009, protestors swarmed outside of the Kodak Theater in response to Milk's hot-button topic of gay rights. As Penn portrayed the real-life character of openly homosexual politician Harvey Milk, he received the brunt of the protestors' heckling. The outspoken actor had his chance to respond on a national stage when he won the Best Actor award for the film.

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"To see this culture of ignorance that breeds this hateful expression that these people had the signs outside essentially telling you that you're less than human," Penn says in a press conference following his award. "There's nothing more important than the themes [in] this movie...When you see something like what I saw outside today, it enhances that."

With the major ongoing social issue of gay activism surrounding the film, Penn deemed his second Best Actor award as not just a personal victory but more importantly a social victory.

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"[It] means a lot to myself and to everybody involved not only in the movie but to anybody who believes in equal rights for other human beings," he says. "It's pretty simple."

An avid activist, Penn has adamantly pursued various political and social causes, from publicly criticizing former president George Bush to voicing his opinion on the Falkland Islands sovereignty dispute. While his approach is occasionally debatable, he has certainly been passionate and committed to whichever cause he dedicates himself.

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"I think we all hope for that in our children and, by whatever means, attempt to instill it in them," Penn says of his qualities of passion and commitment. "I can't accuse myself of having those qualities, though I appreciate when they're said about me and I certainly strive for that."