• Fri
  • Nov 21, 2014
  • Updated: 5:36am

Six degrees

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 October, 2011, 12:00am

Actor-activist Sean Penn apparently played a big role in Iran's release of Americans Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal last month. Penn (below) reportedly flew to Caracas to ask Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to intercede with his Iranian counterpart, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Penn has long specialised in the unexpected, famously calling for the impeachment over the Iraq war of then United States president George W. Bush and vice-president Dick Cheney...

As secretary of defence the first time the US invaded Iraq and vice-president the second time, Cheney is clearly not enamoured with autocratic governments. Occasionally, however, his undying commitment to freedom seems to slip his mind - like the time he said the African National Congress 'was viewed as a terrorist organisation and had a number of interests that were fundamentally inimical to the United States', in defending his 1986 decision to oppose a Congressional resolution calling on the South African government to release political prisoner Nelson Mandela...

The South African statesman has since been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the US Presidential Medal of Freedom, Britain's Order of Merit, the Freedom of the City of Johannesburg and, er, honorary citizenship of Canada. He's been the subject of musical tributes from artists including Youssou N'Dour and Hong Kong's Beyond. But perhaps the most famous of all is the song Free Nelson Mandela by British ska band The Special AKA, which was two of The Specials, without their miserable vocalist Terry Hall...

No one could accuse the former bricklayer and apprentice hairdresser of being over-choosy about his collaborators. As well as Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics, Ian Broudie of The Lightning Seeds, MC Mushtaq of Fun-Da-Mental, actress Blair Booth and jeweller Anouchka Groce, he also hooked up in 1996 for the song Poems with trip-hop pioneer Tricky ...

In addition to his occasionally astonishing music, the singer has been responsible for some equally astonishing acting, albeit for rather different reasons, as anyone who's seen Luc Besson's The Fifth Element will attest. Tricky, though, is rather picky about who he works with musically, once turning down an invitation to collaborate on the Ray of Light album with Madonna...

The style icon has made a greater impact on the worlds of music and film. As a director, her new film W.E.- about the relationship between Wallis Simpson and King Edward VIII- has been variously described as 'burdened with risible dialogue and weak performances' and a 'turkey that dreamed it was a peacock'. She received her first of five Golden Raspberry awards for 1986's Shanghai Surprise, in which she co-starred with her then husband, Sean Penn.


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