Mel Gibson and Sean Penn Teaming Up for Unlikely Roles in 'The Professor and the Madman'

Mel Gibson and Sean Penn Teaming Up for Unlikely Roles in 'The Professor and the Madman'

Aug 03, 2016

Mel Gibson / Sean Penn

Both Mel Gibson and Sean Penn broke out big in the summer of 1982. Gibson soared as a haunted loner in action thriller The Road Warrior and Penn stood out as a stoned high school student in the goofy comedy Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Both had already shown their skills -- Gibson in Mad Max and Gallipoli, Penn in Taps -- and the roles they played in the following years showed the wide range of their dramatic talents.

Thanks to the popular Mad Max and Lethal Weapon series, Gibson became known as an action star. He balanced that out with roles in intense dramas and light comedies, and eventually turned to filmmaking, winning two Academy Awards for Braveheart. His latest directorial project, the wartime drama Hacksaw Ridge, is due for release on November 4.

 

For his part, Penn found greater success in potent dramas rather than silly comedies; he won Academy Awards for his acting in Mystic River and Milk. He began directing features in 1991; his most recent effort, The Last Face, debuted at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year.

 

Now the two may finally team up together on the big screen. Gibson is already set to star in The Professor and the Madman, according to Variety, and Penn is in talks to join the cast. First published in England as The Surgeon of Crowthorne: A Tale of Murder, Madness and the Love of Words, the title of Simon Winchester's book was changed to The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary for its U.S. publication

The story sounds fascinating. Gibson will play Sir James Murray, who became one of the first editors of the dictionary in the 1870s as it was compiled over decades. If things work out, Penn will portray Dr. W.C. Minor, a surgeon and military officer during the Civil War who later killed a man in London and was confined in a lunatic asylum. He became involved with the massive dictionary project after Murray put out a call for volunteers to assist in the research and became a prolific contributor.

Gibson purchased screen rights to the book in 1998. It's finally gained financing and shooting is expected to begin in September under the direction of Farhad Safinia, who previously wrote the screenplay for Gibson's Apocalypto. Back in the 1980s, it would have seemed quite unlikely that Gibson and Penn would ever team for this type of movie, but nowadays it sounds like a very intriguing prospect.

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