Actor-turned-director Sean Penn refrained from smoking during his return to the spotlight at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sunday, but could have used something to calm his nerves as he repeatedly lashed out at media for distracting him during a news conference.
The intense movie star sucked on ice cubes and swore as he met with dozens of reporters to discuss his riveting new film, “Into The Wild,” featuring a tour de force performance by newcomer Emile Hirsch.
A police officer stood guard outside the room – an unusual sight that one festival spokeswoman said was due to crowd control, and not because of Penn’s controversial appearance at the festival last year.
While promoting the 2006 drama, “All The King’s Men,” the actor lit up and smoked at the same hotel, violating a provincial law that forbids smoking indoors. Penn escaped punishment, but the hotel faced more than $600 in fines.
This time around, Penn was cigarette-less but appeared to have trouble focusing on questions, halting the press conference twice to reprimand observers for distracting him in one way or another.
“You can stop taking pictures because I can’t think,” Penn told photographers as working cameras made clicking noises around him.
“It’s the ugliest music in the world, all of that. OK?”
Later, Penn appeared annoyed by background chatter as he tried to focus on a reporter’s question.
“What’s everybody else talking about? Or are you just interrupting?” Penn said in a calm but forceful tone, his voice trailing off.