Stars shower Sean Penn with praise for his performance in action film ‘The Gunman’

Stars brave the rain for the world premiere of ‘The Gunman’ in London, and shower Sean Penn with praise for his performance in what is his first leading role in an action film.

(STUDIOCANAL) – Stars braved the rain to hit a soggy red carpet for the world premiere of ‘The Gunman’ in London on Monday (February 16), and showered lead actor Sean Penn with praise for what is his first leading role in an action film.

Two-time Oscar winner Penn (Mystic River, Milk), 54, arrived at the BFI Southbank with his partner Charlize Theron and co-stars Ray Winstone (Noah), Idris Elba (Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom) stage star Mark Rylance and Jasmine Trinca as well as the film’s director Pierre Morel (Taken).

In ‘The Gunman’, American actor Penn takes on the role of Jim Terrier, an ex-special forces soldier and military contractor suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) who flees the Democratic Republic of Congo after carrying out an assassination, leaving his love behind (Trinca).

But Terrier’s past comes back to haunt him when his former employer tries to have him killed, and he must travel from the DRC to London and Barcelona to stop the people who want him dead and clear his name.

The film has plenty of gunfights and explosions, but actor Ray Winstone, who plays a friend of Penn’s character, insisted that it was more than just an action movie.

“Yeah, I think it’s a little bit more than that the film you know? Maybe I didn’t realise it that much when I was making it, you know you think ‘Oh Sean, he’s getting on a bit’ – he looks as fit as a butcher’s dog – but when you sit down and you weigh up the film, and the way they put it together Pierre, and I guess he had a lot to do with it as well, Sean, he carries the film you know, and the story behind it, the political story within the movie, yes it’s an action film but I think it has a statement in the film as well, which is quite interesting, makes you think a little bit you know,” he said.

Although it was his first lead role in an action movie in his 30-year career it seemed that Penn didn’t need much help or advice in taking up the part.

“No, I didn’t have any tips for him (Sean Penn), how could I, I mean he knows everything, he’s the best actor ever so why would I have any tips? It was all about you know, getting the performance he can get without me, I mean he doesn’t need me, he’s a genius,” said Morel, who directed the 2008 action film ‘Taken’, starring Liam Neeson.

Similarities have been drawn between the two films, but Morel said that Penn and Neeson were “totally different characters, they’re both great professionals and great actors and they work hard, so it was a pleasure to work with both”.

As well as taking on the lead role in ‘The Gunman’, Penn co-produced the film with Andrew Rona and Ron Halpern.

Actor Mark Rylance, who is renowned for his work on theatre productions as well as British BBC drama Wolf Hall, said that Penn’s experience as an actor, director and producer meant he could offer “expert help” with his acting.

“Because he’s also a very good director and so experienced as a producer he was able to give me very good notes in our scenes, and encourage me in certain directions which I hope were good. It’s certainly more fun to have that kind of expert help from a fellow actor. It was really great, and he did it so well.”

He added, “I think he’s one of the most generous people I’ve ever met.”

Aside from his acting career, Penn has worked on humanitarian causes, including starting the J/P Haitian Relief Organization in Haiti after the country’s devastating 2010 earthquake.

‘The Gunman’, which also stars Javier Bardem (Skyfall), will be released in UK cinemas on March 20, 2015.