Sean Penn Says He Watches ISIS Beheadings: We Need to “See the Horror of War”

Sean Penn
Sean Penn revealed that he watches videos of the ISIS beheadings — find out why Gregg DeGuire/WireImage

Sean Penn doesn't think hiding from the truth helps anyone. The Oscar winner opened up about why he chooses to watch the ISIS beheadings during a recent eye-opening interview with The Telegraph. The horrific killings by the Islamic extremist group have garnered millions of hits online, but The Gunman actor doesn't believe they are for entertainment.

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"The problem is we are not seeing enough of real violence. We are being anesthetized when you don’t see the horror of war," Penn, 54, said. "I’ve watched them. And anyone who sees them and claims that they were anesthetized by violent movies, that they weren’t horrified by what they saw, on the most primal level, is intellectually dishonest or existentially unpresent."

Charlize Theron's fiancé, who created the non-profit J/P Haitian Relief Organization in 2010, continued to explain that in this day and age, the news has pulled back on airing more violent footage. This is a striking difference compared to what Americans watched during the Vietnam War from the '50s to the ‘70s, Penn argued.

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"In the Sixties, we grew up with the horror of Vietnam on our television screens every day. Today we have become anesthetized by political correctness," he continued. "The American news channels did this with the Iraq war; they wouldn’t show what it was about, they wouldn’t show the caskets coming home."

Hollywood has made its fair share of war films over the years, with Penn even starring in the 1989 drama Casualties of War with Michael J. Fox. He explained that the most recent war drama — Clint Eastwood's American Sniper — is fine in his book.

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"Here’s the thing. I don’t see the same problems with it [as others do], not because of my relationship with Clint," he said. (The film, based on sniper Chris Kyle's life, drew criticism for its portrayal of Islamic people, how it glorified Kyle's actions and, some argued, justified the Iraq war.) "I don’t see the glorification. I probably go into a zone when it comes to military films, where I am assessing the technical aspects of the filmmaking more than the political message. Clint and I have had some political discussions and he is a committed libertarian. I don’t think he is by any means a conventional Republican."

During the interview, Penn also touched on his gun collection — or lack thereof. It was rumored that his bride-to-be Theron once made him get rid of everything he owned.

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“I never had a gun collection,” he claimed. “I did, though, amass, for a period of time, what amounted to a gun collection. But 'collection’ insinuates you are a collector, whereas in my case I had either purchased them for particular movie projects or inherited them from my younger brother, who has passed.” (Actor Chris Penn died of a heart attack at age 40 in 2006.) He added: "He had a number of weapons. I ended up with a lot of those but, about a year ago, I gave them all away."

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