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'Team America' Duo Feels Sting Of Sean Penn Pen

October 09, 2004|Rachel Abramowitz | Times Staff Writer

Sean Penn isn't mad about how he's portrayed in the upcoming film "Team America: World Police." But he's ready to go to war with the filmmakers over some off-camera comments about voting.

The film, a satire of the action genre featuring a team of butt-kicking marionettes, has already engendered criticism from figures on the right, who have claimed that it makes fun of the war on terror. Yet the film also takes swipes at a number of outspoken left-wing celebrities such as Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins and Penn, who's shown opining about how great Iraq was before the war, with rivers of chocolate and children playing with gumdrop smiles.

Earlier this week, the Oscar-winning actor, who made a trip to Iraq before the war, wrote an angry letter to "Team America" filmmakers Trey Parker and Matt Stone. "I never mind being of service in satire, and silliness," he wrote.

What was offensive to Penn, though, was when Stone said in Rolling Stone, "If you don't know what you're talking about, there's no shame in not voting."

"It's well to joke about me and whomever you choose," added Penn. "I do mind when anybody who doesn't have a child, doesn't have a child at war, or isn't or won't be in harm's way themselves, is encouraging that there's 'no shame in not voting.' "

Penn concludes his letter with a pejorative expletive, and adds as an afterthought a personal invitation to show the filmmakers around Fallouja and Baghdad. "When we return, make all the fun you want," he wrote. Penn declined to comment.

Stone, the film's co-writer and producer, says he was "incredulous" when he received the letter. "I was so surprised. Basically, it's some sort of alien logic. He said that he's not mad at all at us starring him or using his name." According to Stone, what he was actually suggesting is that people should get informed before they vote. "There's this whole concept that you should be ashamed if you don't vote. The only shame is if you're uninformed, on either side, and haven't looked at the issues, and you feel like you should still vote. Encouraging uninformed people to vote doesn't help our country," he said.

Despite the dust-up, Stone insists that Penn does a great job in "Team America." "He has a couple of good scenes in the movie. Even as a puppet, he's a great actor."

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