Sean Penn wins best actor Oscar for 'Milk'

By Mary Milliken

June 18, 2010 Updated Feb 23, 2009 at 2:11 AM EDT

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Sean Penn took home the
Oscar for best actor Sunday for his portrayal of slain San
Francisco gay rights activist Harvey Milk in the movie "Milk"
and used his win to defend the right of same-sex couples to

Penn, 48, picked up the second Oscar of his career, the
first being his 2004 win for his lead role as a grieving father
in "Mystic River."

"You commie, homo-loving, sons of guns," the sharp-tongued
Penn told the audience as he collected his award. "I did not
expect this and...I know how hard I make it to appreciate me."

The straight actor's portrayal of an openly gay politician
was a timely one -- with "Milk" coming out shortly after
California's same-sex couples lost their right to marry in a
voter referendum.

"I think it is a good time for those who voted for the ban
against gay marriage to sit and reflect and anticipate their
great shame and the shame in their grandchildren's eyes if they
continue that way," Penn said.

"We've got to have equal rights for everyone."

Penn, who has a tough guy image dating back to his early
career scrapes with the paparazzi, convincingly evoked the
legendary charm of Milk, who was shot to death in 1978 at San
Francisco City Hall.

"He came in kind of ready made" for the role, openly gay
"Milk" director Gus Van Sant said.

In presenting Penn as a nominee, storied actor Robert de
Niro joked: "How, for so many years, did Sean Penn get all
those straight roles?"

Several critics called the performance the best of Penn's
already storied and versatile career, which took off after his
breakthrough surfer-stoner role as Spicoli in "Fast Times at
Ridgemont High."

This year's best actor race was thought to be a battle
between Penn and Mickey Rourke, an actor who scored a
remarkable career comeback as an aging athlete trying to remain
in the ring in "The Wrestler."

"Mickey Rourke rises again," Penn said. "And he is my

Penn won the Screen Actors Guild award for best actor
earlier this year and a slew of critics' prizes. The Oscar
nomination for "Milk" was his fifth in the best actor

(Reporting by Mary Milliken; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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