Why Sean Penn Didn’t Talk to Michael J. Fox in ‘Casualties of War’

Sean Penn has a slight reputation for being difficult to work with, one that he’s acknowledged in the past. Actor Michael J. Fox experienced this side of Penn firsthand when the two starred in the movie Casualties of War. There, Penn didn’t leave too much of a favorable impression on the Spin City star.

How Michael J. Fox reacted to Sean Penn in ‘Casualties of War’

Sean Penn staring down Michael J. Fox in 'Casualties of War'
Sean Penn and Michael J. Fox | Sunset Boulevard/Getty Images

Back to the Future star Michael J. Fox had a less than pleasant experience working with Sean Penn. According to the Oklahoman, it was widely reported that Fox and Penn weren’t on speaking terms in Casualties of War. But Fox asserted it had to do more with Penn’s commitment as an actor than anything personal.

“During the making of the film because the characters are so diametrically opposed it’s Sean’s way to keep that distance,” Fox said.

He went on to elaborate that the two kept it as professional with each other as possible.

“It’s a notion of the way Sean works. That’s not necessarily the way I work, but, because it doesn’t injure my process in any way, it doesn’t … he’s a very giving, very generous professional actor, and he loves actors. So he’s not out to screw me up when I’m working,” Fox said.

Fox further asserted how Penn’s behavior on set might have added to the film’s narrative.

“There’s no denying that there’s a very interesting tension between the two of us in the film. And certainly, that way of working is not detrimental to that, and it could indeed have helped it. I have no trouble with that,” Fox shared.

Why John Leguizamo once claimed he winces every time he sees Sean Penn after ‘Casualties of War’

Michael J. Fox wasn’t the only one who experienced Sean Penn’s committed method of acting. Actor John Leguizamo also found himself being introduced firsthand to that side of the Oscar-winner. In an interview on Conan, Leguizamo described his experience on Casualties of War, which was the actor’s first film. Because of Leguizamo being Latino, the actor claimed there were methods he had to use to conceal his ethnicity to the audience.

“I was a Latin guy and everybody would tell me to stay out of the sun so I could pass… for white… and I audition for this movie and I got the part of Corporal Murphy and then we get to Thailand and I go,” Leguizamo said. “‘Ok, shoot, there’s a lot of sun; I forgot to put sunscreen on and I get really dark,’ and they demote me – to Corporal Diaz… I was mad dark.”

But that wasn’t the end of Leguizamo’s intense experiences on set. In the film, he also had to share a scene with Penn, which turned out to be an uncomfortable experience. The scene called for Penn’s character to slap Leguizamo’s. But “Sean doesn’t believe in stage combat because he’s too method for that s***, so he’s slapping me for real.”

Because of this experience, Leguizamo quipped to Conan he had a very real reaction for whenever Penn’s around.

“I twitch every time he [Penn] comes near me,” Leguizamo said.

Sean Penn once admitted he was difficult

Stopping by The Howard Stern Show, Penn once acknowledged he was difficult to work with. But the actor also asserted that his behavior came from a very artistic place.

“There’ve been several times I’ve worked with directors who I felt might have found a different job description, and perhaps weren’t the storytellers that their initial meetings with each of us actors might have indicated,” Penn told Stern.

The Licorice Pizza actor furthered his point by discussing how he had to go to certain places inside himself as an actor. Filmmakers who don’t understand that process elicit a certain response out of Penn.

“Actors are kind of canaries in the coalmine emotionally, and you have to go to whatever place is necessary inside yourself. If you don’t have somebody there who at least respects that – most of what I was referring to is that the arrogance goes further than charm,” he continued.

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