Sean Penn Apes Robert Smith, Discusses Arcade Fire, Hunts Nazis

Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog
Jan. 30 2012 5:18 PM

Watch Sean Penn Do His Best Robert Smith While Hunting for Nazis

Sean Penn in This Must Be The Place
Sean Penn in a publicity still for This Must Be The Place. Director Paolo Sorrentino has said that the character's appearance was inspired by The Cure's Robert Smith.

Publicity still © 2011 Pathé

Sean Penn is no stranger to unusual roles, but this might be his most bizarre yet. In This Must Be the Place, which the Weinstein Company plans to release this spring, Penn plays a depressed ’80s rocker who looks almost exactly like The Cure’s Robert Smith and is hunting for the Nazi who killed his father.

While there’s not much Nazi hunting in the clip below, it’s our most extended look at Penn in Smith’s signature eyeliner, teased hair, and general cheerlessness yet. A trailer for the Paolo Sorrentino film appeared last fall—it’s his first English-language film—and it screened at Cannes and Sundance, but thus far the film has received little general publicity.

What we get here is Sean Penn, in full goth makeup, debating the true authorship of the titular song with a youngster who thinks it’s by Arcade Fire (Arcade Fire did cover the song). The New York Times talked to Penn about the film and found that Sorrentino thinks of it as less of a comedy than Penn does; judging from this clip, I’m inclined to agree with Sorrentino.

Forrest Wickman is a Slate staff writer.