Sean Penn has a message for the creators of South Park: Voting is cool, and you are not.
The Oscar-winning actor penned a scathing letter Wednesday to the 'toon's brain trust, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the contents of which were revealed Friday on the Drudge Report.
While the accuracy of the missive have not been verified by the Penn camp, the words sound like vintage Penn, who is apparently steamed over comments Stone made in Rolling Stone about voting. Stone said, "If you don't know what you're talking about, there's no shame in not voting."
"I remember not being bothered as you traded on my name among others to appear witty, above it all, and likeable to your crowd," Penn's purported letter says, referring to Parker and Stone including a puppet version of the actor in their upcoming Team America.
"I never mind being of service, in satire and silliness. I do mind when anybody who doesn't have a child, doesn't have a child at war, or isn't or won't be in harm's way themselves, is encouraging that there's 'no shame in not voting.'
"You guys are talented young guys but alas, primarily young guys," the letter continues. "It's all well to joke about me or whomever you choose. Not so well, to encourage irresponsibility that will ultimately lead to the disembowelment, mutilation, exploitation, and death of innocent people throughout the world."
Parker and Stone's latest film, the puppet-powered Team America, takes on heavy political issues like terrorism with their trademark irreverence in full effect. While both Parker and Stone are far from conservative, both have taken some heat for their perceived oversimplified caricatures of Saddam Hussein in their 1999 film South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut and Kim Jong Il in the soon-to-be released Team America.
Team America also reportedly features a sequence in which Penn pal Susan Sarandon is dropped from a skyscraper and her equally political partner Tim Robbins is set on fire--no doubt a sure-fire Penn pleaser. Penn's puppet doppleganger puts in an appearance as part of a group of liberal actors who go to Korea for a ill-conceived attempt at striking a peace accord.
Penn, who is on record as opposing the war in Iraq and the Bush administration's policy of preemption, invoked the ire of many Republican pundits by visiting Iraq as a civilian in the build-up to the current war.
The 45-year-old Mystic River star, who recently wrapped up his scenes for the political thriller The Interpreter, also slams talk-show host Dennis Miller in the letter, saying that they all should join Penn on a trip to the Middle East and Iraq: "We'll fly to Amman, Jordan and I'll ride with you...through the Sunni Triangle into Fallujah and Baghdad and I'll show you around?when we return, make all the fun you want," Penn chided.
Stone was blindsided by Penn's angry missive. He told the Los Angeles Times Saturday that he was "surprised" by the letter. "Basically, it's some sort of alien logic," said Stone. "He said he's not mad at all at us starring him or using his name."
Despite the war of words between the two, Stone feels no ill will towards Penn. "Even as a puppet, he's a great actor," Stone said in the Times. But Stone and Parker may not be able to resist having some more fun with Penn via a future episode of South Park.
On this week's 60 Minutes Wednesday, which features an interview with the Team America masterminds, Stone lets loose on Penn. "It's funny to take...activist actors and...elevate them to the level to what they think they are in their minds," Stone tells 60 Minutes correspondent Vicki Mabrey. "When Sean Penn is on TV before the Iraq War talking about the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty...that is pure comic gold. I don't care what side of the aisle you're on."
Both Stone and Parker seem to have it in for the Oscar winner. Parker told Variety last year when he announced plans to make Team America, "We hate those actors who take themselves so seriously and think they are a productive and important part of society. The subtle joke here is that all actors are puppets. This will probably piss off everyone in town--and might well be our swan song."
If Team America is indeed the duo's swan song, it won't go quietly; the film was nearly given an NC-17 rating by the MPAA due to some raunchy "puppet sex." Last week the film avoided that fate and received a R rating after accommodating edits were made.
Team America opens wide Oct. 15.