Sean Penn

The Pledge

Interviewed by Sian Kirwan

What made you interested in directing "The Pledge"?

I had such a good time working with Jack Nicholson on "The Crossing Guard" that I wanted to continue that relationship with another project. Jack's very inclined towards thrillers and detective stories, he reads them constantly, so when my producer Mike Fitzgerald gave me the book about this cop I thought it was perfect for him, plus it touched me. It sounded very familiar to me and very similar to what my grandfather went through when he retired.

Is it more important for you to direct films now or will you continue to act?

I think it's much more important to direct movies but if it's going to take five years between each one then I'll have to make up for that. When my wife, Robin, says, "Look outside at the pool, the water level's going down", then it's time to go and act in a movie. Actually, both Robin and I now take it in turns to sell out!

When did you decide to take that leap of faith and feel ready to become a film maker?

I think of it as like getting your first house - you move in, work on it, make your first payment, and then something goes wrong with it, like the plumbing, so you think "OK, now where are the adults?". That's kind of what directing is like. There are all these millions of dollars, and adults with big trucks and machinery and you think "Oh my God, did I start all this?". Then it's time to pretend you know what you're doing! After about 10 years in the business working with not very good directors, I decided to give it a go. If you're willing to put two thoughts into a picture then you're already ahead of the game. I wish I'd started earlier.

"The Pledge" involves paedophilia which is an issue that always sparks strong feelings. Being a father do you have an opinion on the matter?

That issue was just there in the story. I can't say I invested a lot of time in it either as a father or as a film maker. It is something we all know is there and I understand it as much as I can understand suicide or anything else I'm not inclined towards. It's a tragic state of humanity, a masochistic event.

Watch exclusive clips of Sean Penn on Jack Nicholson and working with the rest of the cast. Plus read an interview with Robin Wright Penn who stars in "The Pledge".

"The Pledge" is released in UK cinemas on Friday 12th October 2001.