It looks like Sean Penn is set for the director's chair for the fifth time in his career with “The Last Face,” a drama starring Charlize Theron, Javier Bardem and “Blue is the Warmest Color” starlet Adèle Exarchopoulos.
Theron will star as a doctor doing humanitarian relief work in Africa with the continent's violent political conflicts as a backdrop. Bardem will play another doctor and the story revolves around “tough moral decisions that must be made during time of civil unrest,” according to Deadline. Exarcopoulos, the outlet reports, will play a journalist.
The film is being produced by River Road and Bill Pohlad, who produced Penn's last film, “Into the Wild,” and Terrence Malick's “The Tree of Life,” which starred the actor/director. Bill Gerber and Matt Palmieri are also on board as producers. “The Yellow Handkerchief” scribe Erin Dingam (who had a role in Penn's “The Crossing Guard”) is writing.
Penn's work behind the camera has always been of a certain class. The time he takes to choose projects and meditate on what story he wants to tell has always been mirrored in the exacting nature of the actual work. And he's never starred in one of his own pictures, so they never have devolved into any sort of vanity project. I've always respected him for that.
“Into the Wild” was the only one that ever had a brush with the awards season. And it endured a surprising fall. After being a pretty dominant figure on the circuit – a DGA nomination for Penn (which he was most proud of), leading the BFCA's list of nominees – the film only landed two Oscar nominations, for Best Supporting Actor (Hal Holbrook) and Best Film Editing. The biggest tragedy to me, though, was that Eddie Vedder was completely snubbed by the music branch for his many wonderful songs in the film. But, well, crazy, kooky music branch.
Perhaps “The Last Face” will be a different story, but it's certainly, on paper, a project that has us interested from afar. Guys like Pohlad (also a producer of last year's Best Picture winner “12 Years a Slave”) have class and taste, and Penn has already assembled a handful of stellar actors for the project: Theron (“Monster”) and Bardem (“No Country for Old Men”) are Oscar winners, as, of course, is Penn (“Mystic River” and “Milk”).