Sean Penn Backs Out Of Three Stooges And Cartel

Did the notion of Sean Penn playing Larry in a new Three Stooges movie directed by the Farrelly Brothers seem too crazy/good/ridiculous/awful to be true? Now it is, as THR reports Penn has pulled out of both that movie and Cartel, the film in which he would have played a man out to protect his son after Mexican drug cartels kill his wife.

The reason for Penn walking on both projects is that he needs to concentrate on his family. (He and Robin Wright Penn have filed and withdrawn separation and divorce papers multiple times.)

Cartel will move on — it had a little ways to go yet, anyway, so recasting is an option. The Three Stooges situation is more interesting, and possibly more dire, as Penn was part of a cast that included Jim Carrey as Curly and Benecio del Toro as Moe. That movie is slotted for 2010, and it's one the Farrellys have been trying to make for a long, long time, Pulling together the Carrey/Penn/del Toro cast was an incredible feat. With Penn out, they can wait for him, as he's said he'd be willing to play the part if it is still available when he returns to work, or recast. Finding someone willing to do it probably wouldn't be a problem; finding someone who is as much of a notable name as Penn playing way against type is another question.

And while I'm not sure I need to see the Three Stooges played by new actors (and directed by the Farrellys) the whole project is so nuts that I'm sad it might not happen in the same way. How can you not love a comedic cast where two of the three leads are Penn and del Toro?

In the meantime, Penn has already finished Doug Liman's Fair Game, the film about outed CIA agent Valerie Plame (Naomi Watts), in which he plays Joseph Wilson, and Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life. Fair Game will be seen next year. When we'll see The Tree of Life, and in what form (or how many forms) is anyone's guess. Hell, Penn could even end up not being in it much.