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Penn, wife set to split

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SAN RAFAEL, Calif. -- There was a time when Robin Wright Penn believed she and Sean Penn complemented each other.

She seemed to provide a calming influence over her husband's much-publicized battles with the limelight and photographers, and he helped her gain confidence.

"He helped me to believe that I could be strong and stand up for myself," she once told the Los Angeles Times.

But on Dec. 21, Wright Penn stood up and filed for divorce at the Marin County Superior Court after 11 years of marriage. She cited irreconcilable differences as the reason for the split.

Penn has had his share of personal difficulties lately. In January 2006, his younger brother, actor Chris Penn died of an enlarged heart. At the time, Penn quietly and tersely handled questions about how it affected the family.

"A good friend of mine described it best when I saw him. He came over. He said, 'It's a stinker. It's a stinker,"' Penn told the Associated Press. "That's what it is."

Penn met his future wife while filming the Irish mob movie "State of Grace." At the time Penn was considered one of the bad boys of Hollywood. He had married and divorced Madonna and occasionally tussled with celebrity photographers.

Since then Penn has made a name for himself as a nuanced actor and accomplished director. In 2004, Penn won a best actor Oscar for "Mystic River" for his role as an ex-hoodlum who reverts to his criminal ways as he seeks revenge for his daughter's death.

Penn directed this year's "Into The Wild," considered an awards front-runner, about a young idealist whose journey to Alaska ends in tragedy.

Wright Penn is best known for her role in "The Princess Bride" in 1987 and "Forrest Gump" in 1994 opposite Tom Hanks. Her other acting credits include "Beowulf" and "Breaking and Entering."

The couple, who live in Northern California, have two teenage children and seeking joint custody of the children.