Sean Penn is undoubtedly a polarizing figure in American society. The man has a knack for extremes, which he demonstrated back in 2016 when he interviewed drug lord El Chapo for Rolling Stone. There were also the times he hung out with controversial Latin American presidents, Hugo Chavez and Raul Castro.
But, the Fast Times At Ridgemont High actor doesn't really care what people think about him. In fact, he's so lax regarding his public persona that on Monday he arrived on the set of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert slightly disheveled and still in a daze from taking Ambien on the flight. Things got much weirder from there.
Penn, who visited the late-night show to promote his bizarre debut novel, Bob Honey Just Do Stuff, pulled out a pack of cigarettes and started smoking as he went off on a strange rant about the decline of the film industry and his decision to step away from acting.
"Part of it was the girl I fell in love with was going into a movie theater in the dark with strangers and seeing something that might last forever," he explained. "Now, there's so much content, and I can't keep track of it. Nothing seems special."
Frustrated with the state of the Netflix-inspired industry trends (which could possibly stem from his own experience with the streaming giant), Penn said that he decided to give writing a chance. He said he enjoyed the creative freedoms that came with not being beholden to a production team or other cast members.
"Without a director, without any money pressuring the process, you just write. Once you've done it, it's a complete thing," he said. "You're not selling an idea where somebody says, 'I want to build you a bird,' and they give you the money to do it, and they're expecting a falcon, and you built them a sparrow. And, you always intended sparrow, and we misunderstood, and they're disappointed, and their money's spent. In this case, I make the bird I want to make, and I fly it over to a publisher, and it's complete."
Of course, not many people could waltz into a publishing house with a batty manuscript littered with alliteration about a 50-something-year-old man who struggles to cope with Donald Trump's rise to political power. It helps to have money and Hollywood name recognition.
"When I first though about this book, I started to hear a rhythm of speech, a storyteller about Bob Honey. So, I gave him a name, Pappy Pariah, which became a character in the novel, and I just decided to let it live as his for a bit," he told Colbert. "And, now I'm here, in an evolution of that process, sharing an element of that truth I told you."
It's hard to know what's truth or fiction with this guy, but we do know this: The interview is definitely worth a watch if you're interested in some good, old-fashioned uncomfortable laughter.
Watch the interview below: