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Sean Penn interview, original excerpts
August 23, 1995

Sean Penn: "Here, It's Like my Mother's Womb."

"The Crossing Guard"

How did you get the idea of the story for your last movie, The Crossing Guard?
I didn't have my children with me at that time, it's the nightmares I had about that loss.
Was the tone of your writing impacted by the tragedy of the fire?
No, it's the death of Eric Clapton's son, falling out of a window, that marked me. I started writing two days after that. The fire just forced me to move my house to a new location. (laugh)
The hero of The Crossing Guard , whose daughter has been killed by a drunk driver, goes for a vengeful chase. Do you think you would have the same kind of reaction?
I hope not.
What kind of nightmares did you have and how did they influence your writing?
I had been kind of given my martial order to get out of the house so I had already, in one sense, lost my family. I had struck a kind of barrier, I had dreams of deeper loss and I wanted to cut those off in the past.


Robin Wright plays in your movie, Anjelica Huston, who was with Jack Nicholson at a time... this movie looks like a family reunion, doesn't it?
Robin Wright isn't really a part of my family, except she is the mother of my kids. (daughter Dylan, 4, and son Hopper, 2, named after actor and friend Dennis Hopper)
It's a family, isn't it?
My kids are my family.
Still, there were lots of people who were close to each other
Lots of people who knew each other, exactly.


You look very happy with your life right now
And it's getting better everyday, I'll say that.
How do you see your life evolving, now that it is getting better and better?
It's evolving towards a little more peace. There was a lot of compromise to do. The war between their mother and I is over. We have separate lives and we're trying to do what's best for the kids. I can have them regularly now. And that's it! And I am writing, I'm on the next one.
Peace is important, so the kids don't grow up with the idea that there is someone evil on one side and someone good on the other side.
I don't think that it would be the case. They have a great mother.
Do you imagine your life being like it used to be again?
I don't know, it's the honest answer. I don't know.
One day at a time?
Yeah, I've kind of sorted out what the nature of the family I have is. But if there is somebody that makes any sense to me and they want a bigger kitchen, we'll see, I'll take another chance.


Do you think that by concentrating on directing, it will eventually stop the kind of reports that, after having talked about your new movie, are still wondering about you and Madonna?
I regret the future, but the past remains. (laugh) It's gotta be on the mind of certain kinds of people who are trapped in their own past, but it's not gonna be on the mind of most of the movie people. That's not a hassle to me. My television set is too small to watch for entertainment or daily comments. I pick up the news once in a while, but it's not a big entertainment viewing screen in front of which you sit to watch with a beer.


How is your average day in this setting, is it a hermit kind of lifestyle?
I guess I'm becoming that, more and more. I'm finding less and less reasons to leave. Except, when I don't have the children I leave Los Angeles on the dot. I don't stay here anymore when I don't have the kids. If I have ten hours I get the car and get out of here. I'm not a fan of this city.
Where do you go?
You name it. Its depends on how many hours I have. If she goes on a trip a take them with her, I have a few days. Usually I stay in this country. I like this country a lot. I like a lot of the places, there are lots of beautiful, beautiful places and I try to see more and more of them. I've always traveled a lot.
More on the nature side or on the city side?
Cities are for airports (giggles) and fools.


You said you love the US for its nature, what is your relationship with Europe?
Europe for me has been so dominated by my business--in terms of my travels--and I would only say that it's a better place to think about movies than this country. The questions that are asked there are of interest. My first experience of the kind was in Cannes. As exhausting, interview after interview, as that can be, it's also sort of elevating to get a sense of a cinema world that cares about cinema and not about your asswipe. That's refreshing, because I care about movies, but I don't care about much of the stuff that's dressing it up.