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Sean Penn Says He Could Not Play Harvey Milk Role Now Due To “Timid & Artless Policy Toward The Human Imagination”

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Sean Penn is giving his take on straight actors playing roles of gay men, saying in a recent interview that he would not play Harvey Milk today.

Penn portrayed the openly gay politician in 2008’s Milk and earned his second Oscar for the film. “I went 15 years miserable on sets,” Penn told The New York Times. “Milk was the last time I had a good time.” He continued, “It could not happen in a time like this.

It’s a time of tremendous overreach. It’s a timid and artless policy toward the human imagination.” After starring in the film directed by Gus Van Sant and written by Dustin Lance Black, Penn went on to star in films like Fair Game (2010), The Tree of Life (2011), This Must Be the Place (2011), Gangster Squad (2013), The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013), The Gunman (2015), The Professor and the Madman (2019), Licorice Pizza (2021), and many more. “I feel like an actor who is playing a leading role and is a known actor and is being paid well has a leadership position on a film and you’ve got to show up with energy and be a bodyguard for the director in some way,” he said of his experiencing on sets. “I was faking my way through that stuff and that was exhausting.

Mostly what I thought was just, ‘What time is it? When are we going to get off?’ “I was sure it was done, but I didn’t know how I was going to keep my house running or travel freely or things like that if I stopped.” However, it was not until he received the script for the Christ Hall film produced by Dakota Johnson, Daddio, that he found that spark again. “I felt like this could be a pleasant experience, and that’s gonna matter to me now, maybe more than in the past,” Penn said.

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