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Sean Penn – Hollywood’s redheaded stepchild
 
Sean Justin Penn was born in Los Angeles County, California, the son of actor and director Leo Penn and actress Eileen Ryan (née Annucci).
 
The story of the Penns family in the United States started in 1914, when his paternal grandparents Maurice Daniel Penn (real surname - Melnicoff; Russian: Мельников) and Elizabeth Melincoff (Russian: Мелинкова) came to America from Lithuania, then part of the Russian Empire, and opened up a bakery in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles (California). His maternal grandparents were Catholic Italians and Irish.
 
Sean Penn's acting career starter in early childhood: he began making short films with some of his childhood friends, including actor Charlie Sheen, who used to live nearby. 
 
In 1974 he got a small role in the Little House on the Prairie TV series filmed by his father, director Leo Penn. And in the 1981 action-drama Taps he played a military high school cadet - his first role in a movie.
 
In 1985, Penn played Andrew Daulton Lee in The Falcon and the Snowman - a former drug dealer, convicted of espionage for the Soviet Union and sentenced to life in prison. Later, Penn hired Lee as his personal assistant, both as a reward for allowing him to use Lee's character in the film, and also because Penn is a firm believer in rehabilitation.
 
In the following years, Penn played mostly successful roles in a string of films, was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor five times, and won the award twice: for Mystic River (2003) and Milk (2008). And in 2004, after starring in The Assassination of Richard Nixon, he was  invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
 
In addition to being a recognized actor, Sean Penn is a successful director, with a nomination for the Golden Leopard from the Locarno International Film Festival for his 1991 debut picture The Indian Runner. 
 
Sean's personal life has been as controversial as his political activities (he supported the Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chaves and the Syrian dictator Bashir Assad)... He was engaged to  actress Elizabeth McGovern, whom he left to marry Madonna in 1985, only to end the relationship after a domestic violence incident. Then he married actress Robin Wright, who brought him a daughter and a son. The marriage ended, technically, three times - three times did Penn file for divorce and then recalled the petition! Finally, the couple separated, with Penn starting to date Charlize Theron.
 
Sources:
"Sean Penn: His Life and Times" - Richard T. Kelly (2004)
"Sean Penn Biography (1960-)" - FilmReference.com
Sean Penn Genealogy - Ancestry.com
 

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