Sean Penn has had a reputation for being hot-headed for decades, and his misdemeanors include hurting fans, photographers, and even ex partners.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on November 2, 2020. It has since been updated.
Sean Penn, 62, has had a reputation for being hot-headed for decades now. From hurting fans to photographers to even ex partners, he's been named and shamed for it all. However, he's never had to serve long prison terms. Even a former wife of his, the pop star Madonna, 64, allegedly let him go scot-free. In recent times, she's denied that he hurt her though there were reports that he abused her extensively over the course of their marriage.
The Milk actor was in the news for his abusive behavior when the creator of Empire, Lee Daniels, claimed that he had beaten up Madonna in the 1980s. Penn sued Daniels for defamation which ended only after the show creator apologized. The singer also came to her former husband's aid and denied that he ever struck her.
The couple married in 1985 and separated just 27 months after the wedding, as per People. "The marriage is definitely over," said Madonna's spokesperson, Liz Rosenberg. Penn’s publicist, Lois Smith said, "The two of them have called off the marriage."
The Material Girl singer reportedly predicted that their relationship was going to be a troubled one. "We have so much in common that he's almost like my brother," Madonna told People before the wedding. "His temperament is also similar to mine. That doesn't always make for ideal relationships, but I don't know what will happen."
One of the other glaring red flags in the relationship was that nobody close to Madonna liked Penn. Those close to her saw him as spoiled, immature, and were "amazed by his drinking and temper tantrums," wrote journalist Joanne Kaufman.
According to a close associate of the singer, Madonna sought psychiatric help for herself soon after the wedding to cope with the abusive behavior. Much later, news came out that The Mystic River actor was forced to go for therapy too, because of a court order.
In June 1985, he punched a reporter, and the next year he attacked a songwriter, who was also Madonna's close acquaintance.
"The marriage had been undergoing stress all the time but this was the first major stress, the first really traumatic episode for her. [David] Wolinski was someone she knew, and it really shook her up," a source told People.
In August 1986, Penn baptized a photographer, Anthony Savignano, with saliva, which led to a scuffle. Madonna started spending even less time with him after this incident. He was also "insanely jealous of her," according to her great-aunt, Elsie.
The reports about his abusive behavior towards her are even more horrific. He reportedly hit her across the head with a baseball bat in June 1987, according to the Daily Beast. She was still protective of her husband and didn't press charges as he was already facing 60 days in jail for assaulting a film extra. However, it only got worse for her eventually.
On December 28, 1989, Madonna filed a police report against him when he scaled their Malibu home, found her alone in the bedroom, and told her he owned her "lock, stock, and barrel."
She asked him to leave the house but instead, he tied her hands with an electric lamp and cord, according to Daily Mail. The scared singer ran away from the bedroom but he chased her to the living room and tied her up to a chair. He reportedly threatened to cut off her hair.
He allegedly hurt her so much that she was unrecognizable. He agreed to free her only after she "agreed to perform a degrading sex act on him." She escaped from the house and drove herself to the sheriff’s office.
"I hardly recognized her as Madonna," Lt. Bill McSweeney said at the time. "She was weeping, her lip was bleeding and she had obviously been struck." He was charged with felony domestic assault, but the Like a Virgin singer told the DA to drop the charges against him. He ended up pleading guilty to a misdemeanor, and she left him shortly after.
Penn has been married two more times with the most recent one being in 2020. He married 28-year-old Leila George, who is Vincent D'Onofrio and Greta Scacchi's daughter.