The Oscar goes to Sean Penn Best Lead Actor Oscar Academy Award Nomination Sean Penn plays Harvey Milk in the movie Milk

The Oscar goes to Sean Penn for his role in "Milk" (Focus Features) for Performance by an actor in a leading role, during the 81st Annual Academy Awards from the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, CA Sunday, February 22, 2009 live on the ABC Television Network.

"I did not expect this, but I, and I want it to be very clear, that I do know how hard I make it to appreciate me often. But I am touched by the appreciation"

"I'm very, very proud to live in a country that is willing to elect an elegant man president and a country who, for all its toughness, creates courageous artists. And this is in great due respect to all the nominees, but courageous artists, who despite a sensitivity that sometimes has brought enormous challenge."

Sean Penn plays Harvey Milk, a transplanted New Yorker whose decision to campaign for a place on San Francisco's Board of Supervisors becomes a landmark event within the gay rights movement.

Best Lead Actor Oscar Academy Award Nomination Sean Penn as Harvey Milk in the movie Milk

This is Sean Penn's 5th Oscar nomination in the Best Leading Actor Academy Award category.

Sean Penn was previously nominated for Dead Man Walking (1995), Sweet and Lowdown (1999) and I Am Sam (2001), and won the Oscar in 2003 for his performance in Mystic River.

As the emerging Gay Pride movement gathers force in the 1970s, it finds a champion and a public face in Harvey Milk.

Leaving his closeted life in New York behind, Milk moves to California with his lover and soon turns his efforts to politics, campaigning for a spot on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors -- a quest that makes Harvey Milk the country's first openly gay man to be elected to public office.

Gay Rights Activist. Friend. Lover. Unifier. Politician. Fighter. Icon. Inspiration. Hero. His life changed history, and his courage changed lives.

In 1977, Harvey Milk was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, becoming the first openly gay man to be voted into major public office in America. His victory was not just a victory for gay rights; he forged coalitions across the political spectrum. From senior citizens to union workers, Harvey Milk changed the very nature of what it means to be a fighter for human rights and became, before his untimely death in 1978, a hero for all Americans.

The film "Milk" charts the last eight years of Harvey Milk’s life.

While living in New York City, he turns 40. Looking for more purpose, Milk and his lover Scott Smith (James Franco) relocate to San Francisco, where they found a small business, Castro Camera, in the heart of a working-class neighborhood that was soon to become a haven for gay people from around the country.

About Sean Penn the Actor

Sean Penn’s career as an actor spans nearly three decades. He has been nominated four times for the Best Actor Academy Award; for Tim Robbins’ Dead Man Walking (for which he was named Best Actor at the 1996 Berlin International Film Festival), Woody Allen’s Sweet and Lowdown, Jessie Nelson’s i am sam, and Clint Eastwood’s Mystic River. The latter performance brought him the Oscar and Golden Globe Award for Best Actor.

His over two dozen other films include Harold Becker’s Taps; Amy Heckerling’s Fast Times at Ridgemont High; Richard Benjamin’s Racing with the Moon; John Schlesinger’s The Falcon and the Snowman; James Foley’s At Close Range; Dennis Hopper’s Colors; Brian De Palma’s Casualties of War and Carlito’s Way; Neil Jordan’s We’re No Angels; Phil Joanou’s State of Grace; Nick Cassavetes’ She’s So Lovely (for which he was named Best Actor at the 1997 Cannes International Film Festival); Oliver Stone’s U-Turn; Anthony Drazan’s hurlyburly (for which he was named Best Actor at the 1998 Venice International Film Festival); Alejandro González Iñárritu’s 21 Grams (for which he was named Best Actor at the 2003 Venice International Film Festival); Sydney Pollack’s The Interpreter; Steven Zaillian’s All the King’s Men; and Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line and upcoming Tree of Life.

Mr. Penn’s feature film directorial debut came with The Indian Runner (1991), which he also wrote and produced. This was followed by The Crossing Guard (1995), which he also wrote and produced, and The Pledge (2001), which he also produced. The latter, starring Jack Nicholson, was cited as one of the year’s 10 Best by the National Board of Review. Representing the United States, he wrote and directed a short film for 11'09"01, the compilation feature which united directors from around the world to create short films in response to the horrific events of September 11, 2001. In 2003 the feature was nominated for a César Award in the best European Union Film category, and received a Special Recognition award from the National Board of Review.

As writer, producer and director, his most recent work was Into the Wild (2007), adapted from Jon Krakauer’s best-selling nonfiction book. Mr. Penn was a Directors Guild of America and Critics Choice Award nominee for his helming of the picture, and was also cited as Director of the Year by the Palm Springs International Film Festival; his screenplay adaptation brought him a Writers Guild of America Award nomination. Into the Wild also earned four Screen Actors Guild Award nominations for its cast, including Emile Hirsch (who also stars in Milk); and two Academy Award nominations.

Mr. Penn has appeared on stage in productions including Alfred Hayes’ Girl on the Via Flaminia and Albert Innaurato’s Earthworms in Los Angeles. On Broadway, he performed in Kevin Heelan’s Heartland and John Byrne’s Slab Boys. He starred in David Rabe’s hurlyburly and Goose and Tom-Tom, at the Westwood Playhouse and Lincoln Center, respectively, with both productions directed by the author. His most recent stage work was opposite Nick Nolte and Woody Harrelson in The Late Henry Moss, written and directed by Pulitzer Prize winner Sam Shepard.

In 2002, he was presented with the Modern Master Award at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. In 2003, became the youngest-ever recipient of the Donostia Lifetime Achievement Award from the San Sebastian Film Festival. In 2004, he received the John Steinbeck Award, given to outspoken torch-bearers in the creative arts. Most recently, he served as president of the jury at the 2008 Cannes International Film Festival.

As a journalist, Mr. Penn has written for Time, Interview, and Rolling Stone. In 2004, he wrote a two-part feature for The San Francisco Chronicle after a second visit to war-torn Iraq. In 2005, he wrote a five-part feature for the same paper, reporting from Iran during the election which led to the Ahmadinejad regime there.

Sean Penn - Best Actor Oscar for his role as Harvey Milk in the Movie "Milk"