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Sean Penn to Host 'Biutiful' Event

Sean Penn and Javier Bardem
Getty Images

No one expects the Spanish Inquisition -- nor a Q&A hosted by press-shy guy Sean Penn. But on Sunday, Dec. 5, Penn will conduct a Q&A at DGA with Biutiful star Javier Bardem and director Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu. It's hosted by SAG Film Society, and the 500-plus actors expected to attend are guaranteed to go gaga over Bardem's emotional rollercoaster performance as a dying yet stubbornly vital hustler on Barcelona's mean streets. He won best actor at Cannes and the film is Mexico's Oscar entry.

"On a smaller yet equally influential scale," says Roadside Attractions' David Pollick, "Michael Mann will host a VIP private screening at CAA on Fri., Dec. 10." The hardboiled yet warmhearted movie is also championed by Werner Herzog, Robert Benton, Guillermo del Toro, Julian Schnabel, and Alfonso Cuaron, who hosts a London screening Dec. 13.

Bardem is hustling for the film worldwide as exhaustingly as his character does on Barcelona's Passeig de Gracia. The morning after Biutiful's Barcelona premiere, he hopped a jet that hit a storm, got diverted to Boston, sat two hours on the runway, and hit Newark at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday. Bardem sprinted through customs and onto the red carpet at the Academy's Lighthouse Theater at 6:45. Unlike his death-defyingly haggard movie character, says Pollick, "He looked incredible, movie-star handsome in a Gucci suit with a huge smile on his face and boundless energy." Feel like crap, look like a million bucks -- that's acting.

After the show, Bardem, Penelope Cruz, and Iñárritu dined at the Carlyle with Miuccia Prada, Ingrid Sischy and Sandy Brant, basking in beautiful vibes from Al Pacino, Patricia Clarkson, Todd Solondz, Paul Haggis, Holly Hunter, Alicia Keys, Claire Danes, Gabourey Sidibe, Moby, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Lee Pace, Chace Crawford, CAA's Bryan Lourd and Beth Swofford, the film's producers David Linde and Jon Kilik, and Roadside Attractions co-president Eric d'Arbeloff.

What is Penn doing in this boldface-name-infested international touring circus? He hates this stuff. "He's never been big on press," says Penn's Fair Game costar Naomi Watts. "He's got tunnel vision ... Right now he's focused on Haiti, and that's what he cares about. Promoting films is never what he's been interested in. He doesn't do a lot, ever. If I was as good as Sean Penn, maybe I could get away with it. I've got a bit more to learn. He's so brilliant nobody cares. It's the hardest part of the job, promoting movies. For some people, it's awkward and difficult to attempt to sell something."

So why is Penn selling Biutiful on Sunday? Because it's an eye and heart-opening film about a place with scary social problems not visible in Whit Stillman's Barcelona or Woody Allen's Vicky Cristina Barcelona? "Maybe he saw the film and liked it," suggests Artforum film critic Amy Taubin. "Simple as that. You know? Why not?"