Sean Penn is not pleased with Hollywood.
In a new interview with Esquire, Penn, who appeared in this fall's indie drama This Must Be the Place, rips into today's film industry -- including his fellow actors.
"I just did this picture that I enjoyed doing. Gangster Squad. But I do think that in general the standard of aspiration is low," he told the magazine. "Very low. And mostly they're just doing a bunch of monkey-f*ck-rat movies, most actors and actresses. And I blame them just as much as I do the business. I know everybody wants to make some money, everybody's got a modeling contract, everybody's selling jewelry and perfume. I'm blinded by it. Bob Dylan said in an interview one time -- somebody asked him, Are you really this reclusive? He says, No, I'm not reclusive, man. I'm exclusive. Exclusivity is like intimacy."
This Must Be the Place earned just $137,000 in the United States, with $11,000,000 in Europe.
Penn's comments come amid complaints from stars and directors for what they call the industry's unwillingness to take artistic chances on serious films. Spike Lee remarked this summer that studios are only interested in potential billion-dollar franchise tentpoles, and Rashida Jones, who co-wrote and produced her own indie starring vehicle, this summer's dramedy Celeste and Jesse Forever, took issue with an audience that only seems to go out for such epic films.
“It’s a two-way street," Jones told The Hollywood Reporter. "Hollywood, yes, I would say there is some feeding of some, as my character says in the movie, 'pretty garbage-y stuff,' but we’re also eating the garbage. So people have to show that there’s a mature, complex moviegoing audience that wants to see -- we have to see, we have to demand the better stuff.
“I’m not against an action movie, I’m not against a big-budget movie,” Jones continued, “but the ones that I like are the ones where it’s obvious where they took the time to develop characters, develop jokes, develop storylines. Like, don’t waste my time and don’t insult me, is how I feel."
For his part, Penn thinks that the industry was once capable of producing such nuanced films, and laments their passing.
"When I was growing up and somebody like Robert De Niro had a movie come out, it was a cultural event," he said. "Because he had such a confidence and a single mission that was so intimate. But when people start using themselves as instruments of a kind of consumerist mosh pit, they're helping that take over. I mean, you are a soldier for it or you're a soldier against it. That's all there is to it. And we have so little of that intimacy left, it's no wonder that interpersonal relationships have become text relationships. It's a texting orgy. When is somebody gonna sit there, with their mate or their child, and just look them in the eye and say, 'I love you?' When is that life??"