Sean Penn admits he's difficult to work with and 'not good with humans'

Tom Beasley
Sean Penn attends an event to benefit Australia wildfire relief efforts on March 08, 2020. (Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images)

Oscar-winning actor Sean Penn has admitted that he can be difficult to work with, stating that he’s simply “not good with humans”.

The 59-year-old said actors are effectively “canaries in the coalmine” and can only work with people who respect their way of working.

Penn has been involved in numerous clashes and controversies throughout his 40 years working within the Hollywood system.

Read more: Penn denies turning down Joker in The Dark Knight

The actor was asked on The Howard Stern Show about his Oscar acceptance speech for Milk, in which he referenced his own difficult reputation.

He said: “There’ve been several times I’ve worked with directors who I felt might have found a different job description, and perhaps weren’t the storytellers that their initial meetings with each of us actors might have indicated.

Sean Penn accepts the Oscar for Best Actor for his work in "Milk" during the 81st Academy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 22, 2009. (Credit: AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

“Actors are kind of canaries in the coalmine emotionally, and you have to go to whatever place is necessary inside yourself.

“If you don’t have somebody there who at least respects that – most of what I was referring to is that the arrogance goes further than charm.

“I am aware that I can be a difficult person to like from afar, often. I sometimes think I have a great love affair with humanity but not too good with humans.”

Read more: Penn gives bizarre Colbert interview

In 2003, Penn claimed in a lawsuit that producer Steve Bing fired him from comedy film Why Men Shouldn't Marry because of his anti-war views, comparing it to the anti-communist Hollywood blacklisting of the 1940s and 50s.

Sean Penn attends the press conference for the Haiti Carnival charity event at the Cannes Film Festival on May 18, 2012. (Credit: AP Photo/Francois Mori)

Penn has also had an often confrontational relationship with the press, serving just over a month in prison in 1987 after assaulting a photographer on a film set.

Read more: Why Team America made Sean Penn angry

The star’s latest project as actor and director is the drama Flag Day, which tells the story of the daughter of a con artist.

The script was penned by English playwright Jez Butterworth, adapting the auto-biographical book by reporter Jennifer Vogel.