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Golden Icon Award: Sean Penn


Serving as the Festival’s most prestigious symbol of recognition, the Golden Icon Award is presented each year in appreciation of the lifetime achievements of an actor and filmmaker, whose career has left a lasting impression upon the film industry and influenced a whole generation.  

Two-time Academy Award® winner Sean Penn has become an American film icon in a career spanning nearly three decades. He has been nominated five times for the Academy Award® as Best Actor for DEAD MAN WALKING, SWEET AND LOWDOWN, I AM SAM and won his first Oscar® in 2003 for his searing performance in Clint Eastwood's MYSTIC RIVER and his second Oscar® as Best Actor in 2009 for Gus Van Sant's MILK. The performance as gay rights icon Harvey Milk also garnered Penn "Best Actor" awards from The Screen Actors Guild, New York Film Critics Circle and Los Angeles Film Critics Association.

Penn has also received Best Actor awards at the Cannes (SHE’S SO LOVELY) and Berlin (DEAD MAN WALKING) Film Festivals, as well as being a two-time winner of Best Actor honors at the Venice Film Festival (HURLYBURLY, 21 GRAMS).

Penn's feature film directorial debut came with 1991's THE INDIAN RUNNER which he also wrote and produced. In 1995, he directed THE CROSSING GUARD, which he also wrote and produced. His third film as director/producer was the much anticipated adaptation of Durrenmatt’s THE PLEDGE starring Jack Nicholson and was named in the Top Ten Films of 2001 by The National Board of Review. Since then, Penn wrote and directed the United States contribution to the compilation film 11'09’'01 – SEPTEMBER 11. As writer, producer and director, INTO THE WILD marked Penn's fourth feature film, which opened to rave reviews in September 2007. The film, based on Jon Krakauer's best-selling non-fiction book, premiered at the Telluride and Toronto Film Festivals and appeared on many lists of the top ten films of 2007.

Penn has appeared on stage in productions including Alfred Hayes' "Girl on the Via Flaminia" and Albert Innaurato's "Earthworms In Los Angeles." On Broadway, Penn performed in Kevin Heelan's "Heartland" and John Byrne's "Slab Boys." He appeared in David Rabe's "Hurlyburly," at the Westwood Playhouse, and "Goose and Tom Tom," at Lincoln Center, both productions directed by the author. Most recently, Penn starred opposite Nick Nolte and Woody Harrelson in "The Late Henry Moss," written and directed by Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Sam Shepard.

Sean Penn is a man whose remarkable film career is matched only by his extraordinary and ongoing humanitarian pursuits that have helped improve so many lives. His humanitarian work has found him in New Orleans in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and more recently in earthquake-ravaged Haiti. In January 2010, Penn founded the J/P Haitian Relief Organization, which focuses on medical aid, protection, and relocation. His organization is currently serving as UN IOM designated Camp Management for the largest IDP camp in Port-au-Prince and established the first emergency re-location in the country.

Sean Penn will receive the Golden Icon Award in person on September 28, 2011 at the corso cinema (20:30). Zurich Film Festival will also screen a selective retrospective in honor of this exceptional actor, director and producer.