OSCAR WINNER SEAN PENN: A PHOTOGRAPHER AT THE ENDS OF THE EARTH IN “THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY”

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Ben Stiller’s reimagining of James Thurber’s original story is highly entertaining and inspiring, revolving around a man who loves to daydream, frequently retreating into an imaginary world in which he is the hero.   A photo editor at LIFE Magazine in New York, he enjoys his job but longs for passion and excitement.  As he was about to lose his job as the company shifts and downsizes, Mitty finds himself out of his office in no time.  The final issue of the prestigious magazine will soon be on newsstands, but a worried MItty cannot find an important negative that has mysteriously gone missing.

The picture was taken by the iconic and elusive photographer Sean O’Connell played by Sean Penn. Sean is the only one who knows where it is. But where is Sean?

For all his fantasies of becoming a hero, Walter Mitty has his own very real hero:  the famed LIFE photographer Sean O’Connell, an elusive adventurer who has become a kind of rock star of the photographic world, renowned for his relentless commitment to chasing a story no matter the cost.

It seemed just the right match to cast Oscar®-winning actor and director Sean Penn in the role of the mysterious icon who beckons Walter Mitty into the big, wide open world.  “Sean O’Connell is a guy who represents creative integrity and he had to have this amazing presence that the audience connects with instantly when Walter finally meets him.  That’s why Sean Penn was really my first choice because Sean embodies all that in life for me,” says Ben Stiller.  Stiller was also keen to cast Penn in the kind of role where one of the leading dramatic actors of a generation wouldn’t normally be seen.  “Sean actually has a really great sense of humor,” he notes, “which I think doesn’t get showcased that often in his film work, so it was fun to give him a chance to do something different.”

Adds producer Stuart Cornfeld:  “Sean O’Connell has a certain kind of mystique, as does Sean Penn.  What was amazing about his performance and the way the character is written is that when Walter finally does meet Sean, he’s everything that Walter was looking for, but he’s also completely different at the same time.  For all of us, Sean was just amazing to watch in action.”

A two-time Academy Award winner, Sean Penn has become an American film icon in a career spanning more than three decades. Penn has been nominated five times for the Academy Award, as Best Actor for “Dead Man Walking,” “Sweet and Lowdown” and “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 (SAG™), New York Film Critics Circle and Los Angeles Film Critics Association.

As a journalist, Penn has written for Time, Interview, Rolling Stone and The Nation magazines. In 2004, Penn wrote a two-part feature in The San Francisco Chronicle after a second visit to war-torn Iraq. In 2005, he wrote a five-part feature in the same paper reporting from Iran during the election which led to the Ahmadinejad regime. Penn’s landmark interviews with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and Cuba’s President Raul Castro were published in The Nation and The Huffington Post. Penn’s interview with President Castro was his first-ever interview with an international journalist.

His humanitarian work found him in New Orleans in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and, more recently, in earthquake-ravaged Haiti. In January 2010, Penn established the J/P Haitian Relief Organization (J/P HRO). J/P HRO has become a leader in Haiti across multiple sectors, working to improve living conditions in the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps and surrounding neighborhoods by clearing rubble and providing medical services, education and enricmment programs, housing construction, and neighborhood redevelopment. J/P HRO’s main objective remains to help displaced people get back to durable, safer, and permanent homes in revitalized neighborhoods.

Be a part of a man’s transformational journey in “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” as it hops from the four corners of one’s office to Greenland, Iceland, Himalayas and ultimately to self-discovery when it opens January 22 in the Philippines from 20th Century Fox to be distributed by Warner Bros.

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