News in 2008

Sean Penn to receive Desert Palm Achievement Award
2009 Palm Springs International Film Festival


PALM SPRINGS, CA (December 26, 2008) – Marking a Festival first, Academy Award® winner Sean Penn will be honored two years in a row at the 20th Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival (PSIFF) Awards Gala on Tuesday, January 6, 2009.  Penn will receive the Desert Palm Achievement Award for Acting, after being presented last year with the Director of the Year Award for Into the Wild.  Past honorees of the Desert Palm Achievement Award include Daniel Day-Lewis, Jake Gyllenhaal, Liam Neeson, Nicolas Cage, John Travolta, Richard Dreyfuss and James Stewart.

Festival chairman Harold Matzner said, "The Palm Springs International Film Festival is honored to award Sean Penn the Desert Palm Achievement Award for Acting.  Penn's portrayal of Harvey Milk is one of the greatest acting performances of 2008 and has been recognized by film critics across the country.  I think it is deserving of an Oscar nomination."

Presented by Cartier and hosted by "Entertainment Tonight's" Mary Hart, the Festival's annual Awards Gala, will honor previously announced honorees Clint Eastwood with the Career Achievement Award, Ron Howard with the Director's Lifetime Achievement Award, Dustin Hoffman with the Chairman's Award, Revolutionary Road with the Ensemble Performance Award, Anne Hathaway with the Desert Palm Achievement Award for Acting, Amy Adams with the Spotlight Award, Dakota Fanning with the Rising Star Award, Gus Van Sant with the Sonny Bono Visionary Award and Alexandre Desplat with the Frederick Loewe Award for Film Composing.

Penn stars in the critically acclaimed Milk, which tells the story of Harvey Milk, who in 1977 was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, becoming the first openly gay man to be voted into major public office in America.  His victory was not just a victory for gay rights; he forged coalitions across the political spectrum.  From senior citizens to union workers, Harvey Milk changed the very nature of what it means to be a fighter for human rights and became, before his untimely death in 1978, a hero for all Americans. The Focus Features film, directed by Gus Van Sant also stars Emile Hirsch, Josh Brolin, Diego Luna, and James Franco.  Penn has received a Golden Globe and SAG acting nomination for his performance in the film.

Penn has become an American film icon in a career spanning nearly three decades.  He has been nominated four times for the Academy Award as Best Actor: in Dead Man Walking, Sweet and Lowdown, I Am Sam and he won an the Oscar for his searing performance in Clint Eastwood's Mystic River.

Penn has appeared in over thirty films including Taps, Fast Times at Ridegemont High, The Falcon and the Snowman, At Close Range, Colors, Racing with the Moon, Casualties of War, We're No Angels, State of Grace, Carlito's Way, U-Turn, The Thin Red Line, Dead Man Walking (Winner Best Actor / 1995 Berlin Film Festival), She's So Lovely (Winner Best Actor / 1997 Cannes Film Festival), Hurlyburly (Winner Best Actor / 1998 Venice Film Festival), 21 Grams (Winner Best Actor / 2003 Venice Film Festival), The Interpreter and All The Kings Men.  Penn recently completed production on the Terrence Malick drama The Tree of Life opposite Brad Pitt.

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 2001'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.  This important project gathered 11 acclaimed directors from around the world to create short films in response to the horrific events of September 11, 2001.  In 2003 the film was nominated for a French Cesar in the best European Union Film category and received a special recognition award from the National Board of Review. 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.

In 2002, Sean Penn was presented with the Modern Master Award at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, and in 2003, became the youngest ever recipient of the Donostia Lifetime Achievement Award from the San Sebastian Film Festival.  Additionally, in 2004, he received the John Steinbeck Award for outspoken torchbearers in the creative arts.  Penn served as President of the jury for the 2008 Cannes International Film Festival and later that year was named a Knight in the French Legion of Honor.

PSIFF, founded in 1990 by then Mayor Sonny Bono, is scheduled from January 6-19, 2009, screening 210 films from 73 countries.  The Festival presents a majority of the films submitted for consideration in the Best Foreign Language category for the Academy Awards, as well as a large number of American independent and international features and documentaries marking their world, North American or U.S. debuts.

The Festival's 20th Annual Awards Gala is presented by Cartier and sponsored by Mercedes Benz and Entertainment Tonight.  Renewing sponsors of this year's Festival are Title Sponsor, The City of Palm Springs and Presenting Sponsors, The Desert Sun, the City of Indian Wells, the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, Spencer's Restaurant, and Wessman Development.  Major Sponsors include Bank of America, Integrated Wealth Management, Guthy-Renker, Regal Entertainment, Wells Fargo, Palm Desert National Bank, KPSP, Ocean Properties Development, Ciroc, Johnnie Walker and Don Julio.