Oprah Talks to Sean Penn
Oprah: What are your unshaken beliefs?
Sean: There's a scene in this piece I once wrote. A mentally disabled younger brother keeps getting in trouble because he trusts people. His older brother is fed up with having to bail him out. He says, "Why do you always trust people?" The younger brother says, "That way, when I'm right, I'm ready." My belief is that I've got to be ready for when good things happen. Oddly enough, I'm very optimistic.
Oprah: What has been the biggest misconception about you?
Sean: That I'm not aware of my own ridiculousness. I don't give a lot of clues that I'm aware. I'm aware of that, too.
Oprah: Are you trying to be mysterious?
Sean: This might be the last thing anybody would see, but I'm probably shy. I've never gone to a party where I didn't drink alcohol. I have a great time, but I'm not comfortable. My straight nature is not very social. That doesn't mean I haven't caught myself being terribly arrogant.
Oprah: Before I came here, several people told me, "You have to watch out for Sean because he's a bad boy and he shot at helicopters." I said, "Those are all media stories."
Sean: Well, I did shoot at the helicopter.
Oprah: That's just one story, one day—not the whole person.
Sean: When someone tells a story about you, they want a beginning, a middle, and an end. That's the problem with stories about people: You can't really do a beginning, middle, and end in a literal way. All true stories end in death finally, but even still, it's tricky.
Oprah: Have you mellowed?
Sean: No. I don't believe people change that much. And I'm not necessarily a big believer that they have to. There's a lot more good to be had in recovering from forgetting who you are than there is in discovering who you are. People's innocence gets hurt early on and they go away from themselves.
Oprah: When I ask whether you've mellowed, I'm asking: Would you shoot at the helicopter today?
Sean: I would feel just as disgusted by the behavior that led me to do it. There's mellowing internally and there's mellowing externally. I suppose I'm more practical now about a couple of things. I went to jail afterward. Not so bad, but it would be terrible today. My kids. I wouldn't do anything like that now.
Oprah: What about hitting a photographer?
Sean: That story has been mistold a million times.