Being the son of a famous actor and actress can be a blessing and curse as Hopper Penn (son of Sean Penn and Robin Wright) has learned the hard way. He seems to suffer from some of his father’s demons with getting into trouble and here are some facts about the young actor who wants to be known more for his cooking than acting.
Actor and model Hopper Penn has been released from jail after he and actress Uma Von Wittkamp were arrested on drug charges earlier this week in Nebraska.
Here are some facts about the couple and their arrest:
A FAMOUS FAMILY
Penn, 24, is the son of Sean Penn, the Academy Award-winning actor, filmmaker and political activist known for his roles in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” ″Mystic River” and “Milk.” His mother is Robin Wright, an actress, and director known for her work in the Netflix drama “House of Cards” and movies including “Wonder Woman” and “The Princess Bride.”
Named after Dennis Hopper and Jack Nicolson, Hopper Jack Penn was born in Los Angeles but was largely raised in Ross, a small, exclusive town outside of San Francisco. He and his mother moved back to Los Angeles around the time Wright filed for divorce in 2009.
He’s also the nephew of singer-songwriter Michael Penn and the late actor Chris Penn. His sister, Dylan Frances, is a model and actress.
Hopper Penn has gained some fame of his own. He acted in the film “War Machine” with Brad Pitt, and models eyewear for Fendi, an Italian luxury fashion house. But he has shied from the label “actor,” noting his regular job at a Los Angeles pizza restaurant.
Von Wittkamp is less well-known, but played a role in the 2015 film short “Endings, Inc.”
HOPPER PENN’S BACKGROUND
Sean Penn, the star of Milk and Carlito’s Way, had only just divorced Madonna – after a notoriously turbulent four years of marriage – when he began a relationship with Robin Wright, aka Claire Underwood in the television series House of Cards. It was 1989 – Dylan was born two years later, and Hopper in 1993.
When their son was three years old, the family moved from Los Angeles to a small town called Ross, in Marin County, north of San Francisco. It was, he says, a “mellow” childhood, far from the bright lights of Hollywood and the paparazzi.
But the Penn-Wright relationship was not straightforward. They separated in 1995, only to reconcile a year later, and get married. A decade on, they filed for divorce, then got back together again a few months later. They finally divorced in 2010, when Hopper was 16.
His father had moved back to Los Angeles, and his mother eventually followed suit. Their son does not attempt to hide his disdain for the city. “I hate LA,” he says, firmly. “Finding genuine people there is really tough.”
He’s been living in New York since just before Christmas. “The main thing was getting away from my friends,” he says. It was a good move, since LA has not been the healthiest place for Penn.
At 18 years old, he was, “smoking [crystal] meth and doing cocaine, every single day,” he says. “I just wanted to get f-ed up, I didn’t care about what happened, I just wanted to get out of my own head.” He was, at the time, living at his drug dealer’s house.
One day, after taking a huge amount of LSD, he woke up in hospital. His father offered him a choice: go to rehab, or end up living on a park bench. “I was like, ‘I’ll take a bed,’ and he took me to rehab, right away. My dad saved my life,” he says, matter-of-factly.
Penn Senior also gave his son a sense of purpose, creating a part for him in the film he was directing, The Last Face. “I never wanted to follow in my parents’ footsteps,” says Penn Junior. “I never wanted to be compared to them. So, when he told me I had to read this script, I was like, ‘F- no, never – I will not be acting in this.'”
The character he’d created, however, Billy Boggs, was a weed-smoking helicopter pilot. “The script said, ‘Actor needs to learn how to fly helicopters,’ and I was like, ‘I’m in,'” Penn says, laughing. “I’m actually in the process of getting my real helicopter license now.”
The experience of making a film with his father brought them closer. “He’s my homie. It’s a great feeling to know that he’s there – he’s got my back.” His mother, he says, is his “f-ing best friend – she’s awesome.”
Following The Last Face, he auditioned for a role in War Machine, a satirical war film starring Brad Pitt, while at the same time, signing up to join the marines in real life. When the call came through that he’d won a part in the film, he says, “I was like, ‘Actually get killed or pretend to get killed?'” He decided on the latter.
He’s since played his first leading role, in a small independent film, Puppy Love, which has a gritty storyline involving his character’s attempts to help a prostitute – with whom he is in love – get off crack cocaine.
For all his reluctance, he is slowly forging a path in the business, it would seem. “I do have fun doing it, but I would like to do something that I’m passionate about,” he says. His real passion, in fact, is cooking.
Incongruous though it may seem, in LA he worked as a chef in a pizza restaurant; now, he is shadowing chefs at The Breslin, April Bloomfield’s gastropub-style restaurant at The Ace Hotel in New York.
“With modeling and acting, my goal is to make $50,000 so I can go to culinary school,” he says. And he’s keen to practice – he offers to come over to cook me dinner, and gives me his number to arrange when. He’s also has a giant crush from afar on Hailey Baldwin, the model daughter of actor Stephen. This might not go down so well with his current girlfriend though.
“I’m obsessed with her, but I’m never going to talk to her. I’m too shy and too awkward. I know it will never happen,” he says. Maybe after he gets his helicopter license, I suggest, he should cook her dinner instead.
STRUGGLES WITH ADDICTION
Hopper Penn told the Evening Standard last year that he fell in with a “bad crowd” during his parents’ divorce, which was finalized in 2010. His spiral apparently began a month after he moved to Los Angeles, when he was badly injured in a skateboarding accident and had to undergo surgery for bleeding on the brain.
Penn has since admitted to using a variety of drugs, including methamphetamine, but said he sought treatment.
“I went to rehab because I woke up in (the) hospital and my dad said, ‘Rehab? Or bus bench?’” he said in the Evening Standard interview. “I was like, ‘I’ll take the bed.’”
A representative for the agency that represents Hopper Penn did not have any immediate comment.
Hopper Penn was arrested Wednesday afternoon with Von Wittkamp, his 26-year-old girlfriend, after a Nebraska State Patrol trooper stopped them on westbound Interstate 80 for allegedly failing to signal. A Hamilton County sheriff’s dispatcher said Penn and Von Wittkamp were released Thursday after posting $25,000 bond apiece.
Authorities said the trooper detected “drug activity” in the 1992 Volvo and searched the car. Inside, they said they found 14 grams of marijuana, four amphetamine pills and 3 grams of psilocybin, a psychedelic drug commonly known as mushrooms.
Penn was charged with possession of a controlled substance (psilocybin) and possession of marijuana. Von Wittkamp was charged with possession of a controlled substance (amphetamine) and possession of a controlled substance (psilocybin).
Possession of a controlled substance is a felony in Nebraska, punishable by up to two years in prison, a year of post-release supervision and a $10,000 fine. Because Penn allegedly had one ounce or less of marijuana and it’s his first offense in Nebraska, the marijuana charge is only punishable by a citation, a $300 fine, and a possible drug-treatment course.
Deputy Hamilton County Attorney Benjamin Dennis said he didn’t have any information about the case beyond what was in court filings.