Sean Penn on Robin Wright: “She is a ghost to me now”

Sean Penn testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on relief efforts in Haiti Wednesday morning on Capitol Hill

Sean Penn did another extensive interview while working in Haiti. I think this Vanity Fair one is supposed to be a lot like the exclusive he gave CNN a few weeks ago – focusing on what he’s doing in Haiti, and how everybody else’s efforts are falling short and “dispassionate.” But this Vanity Fair piece is more all-encompassing – they get Penn to go on the record about his split from Robin Wright. Penn says, regarding Wright and the split: “She is a ghost to me now. We spent all those years together…. Now she’s just gone.” Or she was just tired of your sanctimonious ass. Or maybe because you abandoned your children for months to work in Haiti. Anyway, mostly, the piece is a love letter to Penn’s efforts in Haiti. The article is called “Welcome to Camp Penn” and VF put an excerpt online:


If it looks as though Sean Penn is just another Hollywood star courting headlines with a camera-ready cause, look again. With a midlife milestone looming (Penn turns 50 in August), his marriage to Robin Wright Penn seemingly finished (“She is a ghost to me now,” he observes), and a teenage son, Hopper, having recovered from a life-threatening skateboard accident, the Oscar-winning actor decided to redirect his focus and his priorities.

Instead of shooting another film or hawking his latest (Fair Game, in which he portrays Ambassador Joseph Wilson, playing opposite Naomi Watts as “outed” C.I.A. agent Valerie Plame), Penn ended up committing himself to the people of Pétionville, a once-affluent Haitian suburb where he now runs a camp for 50,000 displaced earthquake survivors.

As Vanity Fair’s July issue reveals in detail for the first time, a week after the quake hit last January—killing an estimated quarter of a million people—Penn, a longtime political activist, joined forces with L.A.-based, Sarajevo-born philanthropist Diana Jenkins (creating the humanitarian organization J/P HRO, lined up crisis veteran Alison Thompson to assist in recruiting an A-team of relief volunteers, and flew from his home in Malibu to a ravaged hillside in Port-au-Prince—with a dozen doctors in tow.

Ever since, Penn, wearing camouflage khakis and carrying a Glock handgun, has been living in a tent not much larger than an army-surplus locker. And this spring the actor and his organization—who toil alongside Haitian colleagues, fellow aid workers, and army rangers—were designated by their fellow NGOs and U.N. officials as the “camp manager” of the Pétionville facility.

“I wanted to give back something more to help struggling people, but I didn’t know how best to do it,” Penn tells Douglas Brinkley. “I was for 20 years in a relationship with Robin and 18 years with children. I didn’t have time to commit to anything—for real—in places like Iraq, except to denounce the war. But now I’m single. I can lend a hand.”

For the past five months, Penn’s home base has been the sprawling tent city set up on the former Pétionville country club. (He has left only for a short fund-raising swing, to attend the Oscars in March, and to testify about Haiti on Capitol Hill in May.) As the camp has been buffeted by outbreaks of TB, malaria, dengue fever, and diphtheria, and as the rainy season threatens to bring new potential perils (mud slides, disease, civil unrest), Penn spearheads relief efforts, helps relocate displaced families, and works to arrange deliveries of emergency medical supplies—in one instance coordinating with Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez to airlift in morphine and other drugs.

The U.S. military, it turns out, are among Penn’s strongest supporters. “My politics are not in line with Sean Penn’s,” states Major General Simeon Trombitas, a frequent guest at J/P HRO compound. “But we are allied in trying to save lives and alleviate human suffering. He is a doer and not a talker…and I respect that immensely.”

Lieutenant General P. K. Keen, deputy commander of the U.S. Southern Command, concurs: “In a humanitarian crisis you can be a neutral—always pinching your knuckles white. Or you can operate an NGO the way Mr. Penn does.… He intuitively knew how to both work with the U.N. and break its bureaucracy down…. I applaud the leadership he has shown. He doesn’t have to do this.”

Says Penn of Keen, recalling a recent ceremony at which the general bestowed several commendations on Penn for his Haitian crisis work: “Keen gave me this look in the eye—a look of pride. It meant more to me than any movie award.”

While Penn has abiding respect for scores of his U.N. and NGO compatriots, he is careful to point out what he sees as an inherent risk whenever diverse, committed groups vie to make their mark on the world. “Many people in the U.N. and NGO disaster-relief community share much with Hollywood: envy, Schadenfreude, and the cover [that] bureaucracy gives to a cult of unimaginative ambulance chasers—all of whom want to claim it was they who ‘made the movie’ on Haitian relief.”

Penn insists he will remain in Haiti for the long haul. “There is no exit for me until there is more life than death,” Penn says. “I can always see light in any situation. It’s just the way I’m made. I’m capable of making foolish commitments. Of being a fool. But I can see the light very clearly in terms of the ‘big picture’ for Haiti.”

Adds Penn: “There is a strength of character in the people who have, by and large, never experienced comfort. That’s exactly the character that our Main Street culture lacks and needs in the United States. In other words, we need Haiti.”

While J/P HRO has helped bring about a real social-engineering achievement, Penn says that the displaced people of Port-au-Prince have given him a gift as well. “It’s a reciprocal thing. They have returned to me something I had lost—my humility.”

[From Vanity Fair, excerpt]

I said it in the other post, but I’ll say it again: I admire Sean for what he’s doing in Haiti. I appreciate when someone puts their time, money and efforts where their mouth is. And I think Sean is giving interviews to CNN and Vanity Fair to draw attention to a crisis that desperately needs more attention. However… my complaint with Sean in this piece is the same complaint I had with the CNN piece – humanitarian work is not either/or. Sean can be doing admirable work, and so can hundreds of other aid workers. What bothers me is that Sean (and others) feel there should be a comparison, perhaps to emphasis what good work he’s doing? I don’t know.

VF put up this video too:

Artists For Peace And Justice Look At Building Schools In Haiti

UN Begins Removing Haitians From Makeshift Camps Ahead Of Rainy Season

Artists For Peace And Justice Look At Building Schools In Haiti

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72 Responses to “Sean Penn on Robin Wright: “She is a ghost to me now””

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  1. bite me says:

    can’t stand his smug ass

  2. Shay says:

    VF can make any image look glam, even one taken in Haiti starring Sean Penn. VF is just a magazine for rich bitch socialites who want to feel like they’re contributing to the world by buying the magazine, without the brains to realise that it doesn’t work that way.
    What is ironic is that most people like Penn, use disasters like Haiti to try to justify ignoring their families.

  3. Bonnie says:

    Whatever good he might be doing is getting ruined by his attitude. He seems to be doing this for the wrong reasons: for his own praise and to improve his image…not because of saving lives.

  4. Kelaa Khaa says:

    And inside the tent are a couple of suitcases full of hairspray.

  5. cowbell says:

    He’s just so dirty.

  6. GrnMtGirl says:

    I don’t like how self-righteous he is…

  7. texasmom says:

    I admire his can-do attitude, but MAN he’s annoying! Ghostie Robin Wright is well out of this.

  8. meme says:

    great actor, horrible person though i do applaud his efforts in haiti. maybe he can go to the gulf and help clean up the oil? oh, i forgot, the USA doesn’t count.

  9. lucy2 says:

    Kaiser, completely agree – what he’s doing is great, but so is anyone else there helping. No competition needed, and complaining about others passion is not necessary. Complain about the slow aid or the ridiculous conditions, but don’t put down someone else who is helping.

    I got the impression that he treated Robin like crap, she’d try to end it and he’d beg her to take him back, but finally she just had enough.

  10. missmilly says:

    This guy is so delusional and a complete whacko! Yes, he is doing good work, but a complete schizo!

  11. missmilly says:

    @meme–LOL! That was great.

  12. bite me says:

    meme, why don’t you take your ass to the gulf to help with the clean up effort since you care so much

  13. buellblaster says:

    Can’t stand him!

    He should call his best buddy Hugo Chávez for some help.

  14. voiceover says:

    LOL @ Kelaa Khaa! That’s kind of a douche-y thing to say about the Mother of your children, especially considering the years of rumors of cheating that have followed his reputation. I absolutely LOVE him as an actor. There are few who are just as good as him, but he seems like a real jerk.

  15. VIktoryGin says:

    He is so badly disposed. I’m sorry, but all of his saintly efforts are mitigated by his egocentrism and temper. I cannot digest this man outside of a film role no matter how hard I try. Everyone can applaud his efforts all they want, but really all I can see is an bleeding heart ego in need of stroking. At least he’s getting something done, I guess.

  16. jessica says:

    Sean do me a favor and shut the fuck up!

  17. kimbo says:

    I love him, and I dont care what anyone says.

  18. original kate says:

    i think sean does do some good humanitarian work but damn, he ruins his efforts every time he opens his mouth.

  19. Annie says:

    SP will be dead in a few years. Every picture I see him in he has a smoke jammed in his piehole. Smokeitup!

  20. mary jane says:

    He’s on a high right now.

    When this “project” ends he’ll sink into one of his dark, self-indulgent artist moods. I think that’s what his lovely wife had to put up with for all those years.

  21. Bam Bam says:

    Dude has a big hole inside from being such a SOB, he’s trying to fill it.

  22. JuneBug says:

    She must have been exhausted by him.

  23. lrmsd says:

    He’s such an a**hole.
    I don’t care if he’s doing great work-many sociopaths can and do contribute to larger society, while being unable to have genuine relationships with those in their immediate circle.

    And, narcissists come in all shapes and sizes, including the do gooders.

    I’ll say it again.

  24. meme says:

    @bite me – i would go to the gulf and help clean up the mess but i have to work for a living. i’m sick of celebs helping out everywhere but the country they make all their money in. so kudos to sandra bullock for insisting her adopted baby be from the good old USA.

  25. maria says:

    He is disgusting, gross and over.

  26. Siren6 says:

    Hats off to him for his humanitarian efforts, but these lines made me cringe:
    “I was for 20 years in a relationship with Robin and 18 years with children. I didn’t have time to commit to anything—for real—in places like Iraq, except to denounce the war. But now I’m single. I can lend a hand.”
    How convenient for you. By the way, you’re still a father whether you’re in Haiti lending a hand or not; you’re just an absentee father.

  27. Az says:

    Man, if you people are bitching now, what are you going to do when he gets the Nobel Peace Prize?

  28. Maritza says:

    Susan Sarandon was there too? She is single now, who knows maybe we will get to hear something about these two. I never liked him but at least now he is doing something very generous and meaningful.

  29. janica says:

    This guy’s a psycho. Wonder how many times he beat up on his ex?

  30. hellen says:

    “If it looks as though Sean Penn is just another Hollywood star courting headlines with a camera-ready cause, look again.”

    Just did. Nope, he’s still a sanctimonious smug-ass drama queen who can’t quit the self-aggrandizement rush.

  31. Squirrel says:

    Is that Susan Sarandon in the last picture? Why not an article in VF about her? Would really like to read that instead.

  32. NayNay says:

    I do not care what anyone says about Sean Penn. He may be a douchebag in people’s eyes, but I think he is an awesome human being, and a heck of an actor.


  33. Vee says:

    I loathe this man. Any good he does in Haiti is wiped away by his attitude, his anger, his hate and his politics. He’s a horrible person.

  34. Noname says:

    Penn is CIA. That’s what the fuck he’s doing in Haiti. Ask him why he visited Venezuela recently too…

  35. ElizabethM says:

    I’ll donate more money to Haiti if they keep him.

  36. rraven says:

    @ meme, why is it not cool for a celeb to give back to a country that is not America? They pay taxes on what they earn, keep an entire industry alive with their work/talent, so if they want to also aid other countries with some of their income and time why is that a bad thing?

  37. nona says:

    LOL! at Susan Sarandon wearing that white shirt in the middle of a mud road. And the shirt looks impecable!!! One more prove that celebrities only go there to be photographed and nothing more..

  38. L says:

    Didn’t he help out a huge amount in NoLa right after Katrina? That’s still in the US right?

  39. d says:

    I think it’s ironic that Penn is there and doing good work. It may be the best place for him, actually, and it may be good for him in the long run. He may be an absentee father, but for all we know, his kids are happy that he’s not around. I really think he’s the kind of guy who can do great things, but is completely incapable of real relationships and of living like most people do…is he a sociopath though? So as long as he’s not harming anyone then hey, it’s fine what he’s doing right now. Not everyone has to, or can, live the so-called normal life…some people just aren’t meant for it. I’m not going to believe the beating up stuff until someone confirms it, if not Robin herself. If he really is CIA, I totally want to read about THAT! I think he’s more that classic roaming lone wolf type who never settles down. Is it wrong? No. Would you want to marry someone like that? Probably not.

  40. Whatever says:

    I agree with the comments about his smug self righteousness. Saying she is a ghost to him, is that like saying she is dead to him? Nice. She is the mother of his kids. I bet she is sooooooooooo happy to be rid of him.

  41. Ron says:

    “Ghost to him” is an analogy and isn’t it really true? Since when is getting divorced not like a death? I don’t particularly care for Sean, but why all the venom now? At least he is doing something helpful.

  42. Guest says:

    “I was for 20 years in a relationship with Robin and 18 years with children. I didn’t have time to commit to anything—for real—in places like Iraq, except to denounce the war. But now I’m single. I can lend a hand.”

    He didn’t have the time to commit to anything “for real” because he was married and had children? Last I heard he wasn’t that committed to either of those things, but was certainly able to work plenty in film and womanize on the side all these years. Perhaps instead of blaming his private life or using his family as an excuse for his lack of involvment before now, he should stroll down memory lane and recall those boozy nights, madonna, drugs, etc. This is why no matter how much I respect his current work, I cnanot respect him. He needs to get over himself, since I certainly see no evidence of this supposed new found humility!

  43. fugly says:

    Spicolli here is a Clash fan, so i can’t hate on him too much.

  44. Rosanna says:

    “Or maybe because you abandoned your children for months to work in Haiti.”

    ANY woman calling her husband a sanctimonious *ss over doing months of work in Haiti DESERVES to be divorced.

    Two persons – whether they are your kids or not – can’t POSSIBLY be more important than MILLIONS of folks recovering from an earthquake. Get a grip on that.

  45. crash2GO2 says:

    She is a ghost? Interesting choice of words, since the we all know that ghosts haunt don’t they?

    If he meant to say she means nothing to him anymore, I don’t think he managed it. Reminds me of the song ‘The Ghost in Me’ about an ex-lover who haunts the songwriter.

  46. city says:

    his hair is brutal.

  47. JulieNewmar says:

    Creep !

  48. mary jane says:

    @ Rosanna…you’re missing the point.

    “…and 18 years with children…” is HIS rationale for not committing “to anything”.

    So, according to YOUR interpretation, HE is saying that two “persons”, as you like to call his children, WERE preventing him from assisting hoards of needy people.

    Someone just picked up on the irony of that statement of his….

  49. Cinderella says:

    I guess Star Mag was wrong about Sean and Robin secretly hooking up. I was going to say, Robin is off her rocker if it was true.

  50. Cirque28 says:

    You just know he’s loving that he gets to walk around with a Glock.

  51. Camille says:

    Nope, still don’t like him.

  52. Linda says:

    This guy is just a whole lot of mean.
    You have to wonder where all that anger comes from.

  53. Kim says:

    It will be interesting to read the entire article and what more, if any, said about Robin. But saying she’s a ghost to him, I’m not sure if he meant it as she is dead to him or that like a ghost she haunts him. When he said “we spent all those years together…now she’s just gone” sounds like someone is not quite over the other person. I feel he has regret I do believe they had a very passionate and fiery relationship that Sean will probably never have with anyone else. Robin will be fine, I hope she makes more movies now, she’s so talented. Sean is obviously vey talented too but he is just too abrasive and arrogant for my tastes.

  54. Guy Lalonde says:

    Like it or not, what Penn is saying about some of the “humanitary efforts” is in fact correct and it’s not something that’s talked about enough.

    But of course, coming from him it sounds pompous and whatever but it is a real issue and when someone like him can make things actually happen, I’ll listen!

  55. Cruisin Through says:

    Well kudo’s to him for doing good work there and kudo’s to Robin for being free of his stupid ass. Some people are so much better with causes and strangers than those close to them. Glad he has some redeeming qualities.

  56. Keilo_Jr says:

    Oh my God….does anybody else see Freddy Kruger in those pics of SP (minus the hair of course)……uncanny….

  57. JustBe says:

    Because I wasn’t married to him, and therefore didn’t personally experience the ups and downs of his personality, I can definitely appreciate and respect him for the work that he’s accomplishing in Haiti. To have a high-ranking military rep sing your praises for your hands-on efforts is amazing.

    Perhaps he’s using this as a way to step away and heal from his divorce. I would hope that I could be as productive and helpful in the lives of others when I’m in the mist of personal pain.

    He may be a douchebag, but most a$$hole$ just make other people’s lives miserable, they don’t contribute in any way to the common good, so he’s earned some respect for that.

  58. moo says:

    Never liked him so he’s a ghost to me. Robin, however, is wonderful!!! so…

  59. Mrs Odie 2 says:

    Second hand smoke kills. Sean Penn is killing Haitians!

  60. Luana says:

    He was incredibly abusive to Madonna, and reportedly abusive to Robin, and he constantly abandoned not only his wife, but children to go off with other women throughout his marriage. He doesn’t accept responsibility for his actions and puts blame on others. His violent and explosive personality has been witnessed by countless people, some of them physically. He treats people in his every day life like crap and we’re supposed to believe he’s an exemplary human being for whatever he’s supposedly doing in Haiti? I have zero respect for him.

  61. mia says:

    Sean Penn is king of his own self made village.
    He is his own god and all the little people are just moons to his Saturn.

  62. canadianchick says:

    Glad he’s helping out and hope he stays there for good. I can’t handle anymore of his lame oscar speeches.

  63. thepickle says:

    Focusing on the children you bring into the world as a FATHER is just as righteous as being out in the world fighting for those less fortunate. Speaking ill of the mother of your children carries some kind of curse I am sure. The fact that he POSES for VF is proof that HE IS A SELL-OUT!

  64. RHONYC says:



    your a@s grass, penn! 🙁

  65. Sincerity says:

    Considering that Sean Penn has been actively involved in Haiti on a day-to-day basis, he’s done considerably much more than I have and has earned my respect. Sean Penn is an “A-list” actor who lives in Malibu and has temporarily given up his very comfortable existence to actually reside in a very impoverished Caribbean nation to help the less fortunate displaced by a “natural disaster” at his own personal risk. Frankly, it wasn’t necessary for him to get this deeply involved but whatever his motivations may be, you can’t really “hate on him” due to his efforts. Humanitarian outreach is a very good way to help others as you heal yourself.

  66. Deens says:

    WTF, second commentor?? “VF is just a magazine for rich bitch socialites who want to feel like they’re contributing to the world by buying the magazine”.

    Ummm, I am neither of those things and I LOVE Vanity Fair. Can’t wait for each edition every month. If you skip the party pages and the occasional a**-kissing pieces, it has the best articles out there! Diverse, in-depth, about every topic under the sun.

    Stick to your trashy celeb mags that print publicist-approved BS if you can’t handle more cerebral fare, but leave VF out of this!

    Re: supporting people overseas as opposed to Americans… Look at the oil you pump, the tags on your clothes and just about everything else in your household to see where it comes from. Choices we make as American consumers (cheaper, faster, more, NOW) have devastating impacts on vulnerable people all over the world. While we do have a responsibility to impact our local communities, the world is a small place nowadays and our lifestyles are just as likely to affect someone in Asia or Africa as anywhere closer to home. Our responsibilities in the 21st century are global, just as much as local.

  67. Sophia says:

    Bit harsh to say that publicly about the mother of his children.

  68. Canucklehead says:

    Anyone who complains about Mr Penn’s attitude should ask themselves…

    “Am I doing anything for anyone esle but myself?”

    If the answer is no, shut up.

  69. Majosha says:

    Sean Penn seems like the last person on earth who should be carrying a gun.

  70. Kim says:

    This is the first time in his life this man has actually done any good and not just blabbed about it but he still has a long way to go to not be considered a major a hole in most peoples book.

  71. kaligula says:

    @mia– you said it. glad somebody else sees it.

    white people love to go to the “3rd world” and live off of the death they see there

    everyone read –a sunday at the pool in kigali– by gil courtmanche

    oh and i have a feeling she was probably always a ghost to him, even when they were married and sleeping side by side every night

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