Why Sean Penn’s giving up his guns
Sean Penn rang. ‘I’ve got a secret to share with you, but you can’t tell anyone until tomorrow.’ For an inveterate gossip like me, this kind of conversation is always a slow form of water torture. But I agreed.
‘I own 67 guns,’ he said. ‘I guess you probably won’t approve!’
‘Well yes,’ I laughed, ‘you guess correctly.’
‘ But here’s the good news. I’m decommissioning myself.’ ‘You’re WHAT?’ ‘I’m melting down all the guns, and the ton of ammo I have too, and the great artist Jeff Koons has agreed to make a sculpture out of it all to sell at my Haiti fundraiser tomorrow night.’
‘Wow! That’s amazing. Why are you doing this?’
‘ You’ll find out tomorrow. But you’re one of the reasons. I love your gun-control campaigning!’
‘I bid $1.3 million on a Jeff Koons sculpture
that’s made out of Sean Penn’s 67 guns’
earthquake, and the raw power and emotion in her voice exemplified the extraordinary spirit of those poor people — 300,000 of whom were killed in just five minutes.
Halfway through, Bono and The Edge casually ambled out to join her, and the room erupted. What followed was one of the most memorable musical performances I’ve ever seen, as Anaelle and Bono competed to hit ever greater and more rousing high notes. I walked over to Sean’s table, where he was sit ting with new girlfriend, Charlize Theron. ‘THAT was amazing,’ I said.
‘ That’s nothing,’ he chuckled. ‘Wait until later…’
Charlize is even more absurdly beautiful in real life than she seems on screen. We did an astonishing interview two years ago, in which she recounted how her mother shot her drunken abusive father dead, after he came home firing his own gun and threatening to kill them. Charlize was just 15 and, understandably, it put her off guns for life.
‘I’m so glad you two have got together,’ I said, ‘Sean’s a great guy.’
‘I know,’ she smiled, putting her hand round his shoulder.
Emma Thompson was at the same table with her 14-year- old daughter, Gaia. ‘You look so alike!’ I exclaimed. Gaia’s face froze in horror.
‘Sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you!’ I stammered. Emma erupted in mock fury. ‘Sorry… SORRY!? It’s not an insult to say she looks like me!’ They then both exploded with identicalsounding laughter.
Emma later made a fantastic offthe- cuff speech railing against the absurdity of Hollywood’s backslapping ‘charitable’ industry.
‘I f****** hate charity!’ she shouted. ‘It’s not ‘charitable’ to help people Below: Sean Penn’s new girlfriend, Charlize Theron, who inspired him to give up his guns who’ve been through something this awful; it should be our pleasure, not our honour!’ The auction started, and quickly turned crazy.
Coldplay’s Chris Martin, sitting with his wife, Gwyneth Paltrow, bought a new Banksy painting for $600,000 — as Julia Roberts loudly whooped her appreciation. Sean took to the stage, and said: ‘Where’s Piers Morgan?’ I raised my hand. ‘Have you hacked my phone?’ he quipped, to general hilarity. Then he got serious. ‘ I’m a selfproclaimed alpha male who owns 67 firearms,’ he said. ‘But I’ve had my mind changed about guns by a strong woman, a beautiful South African woman.’ I looked at Charlize, who was close to tears. ‘ I don’t need these cowardly instruments of violence and destruction, none of us do.’ Then he turned back to me. ‘It’s amazing that it took a foreigner like Piers to tell us how wrong our gun culture is. At great personal risk to his career, and to potentially his life.’
Then he announced his Jeff Koons auction item, and bidding was ferocious. My CNN colleague Anderson Cooper was winning with $1.2 million, when I suddenly found myself inexplicably putting my own hand up and bidding $1.3 million. It wasn’t quite as reckless as it sounds, as a recent Jeff Koons sculpture sold for $58 million! But Anderson, egged on by Gwyneth shrieking, ‘Go on, HIGHER!’, bid $1.4 million to seal the deal, thus saving me an awkward conversation with Celia, who’d gone home early, severely jetlagged. Bono returned with all of U2 to perform three of their hits to round off a wonderful evening that raised $6 million. We then all headed to Balthazar Getty’s Hollywood mansion for an after-party, where I got regally inebriated with an eclectic group of fellow revellers including Jenson Button and Steve McQueen’s grandson, also Steve.
At 2am, Sean came over and bearhugged me. ‘Congrats on a great night,’ I said. ‘And congrats on Charlize too.’
He laughed. ‘She’s a keeper, that’s for sure… Well, I’ll do my best to keep her anyway!