Sean Penn’s Son Hopper Opens Up About Meth Addiction

By Keri Blakinger 03/20/17

“I went to rehab because I woke up in a hospital and my dad said, ‘Rehab? Or bus bench?’ I was like, ‘I’ll take the bed.’”

Hopper Penn

Sean Penn’s son reflected on his struggles with meth—and his famous father’s efforts to get him sober—in a wide-ranging new interview with Evening Standard Magazine

Hopper Penn, now a 23-year-old actor and model, grew up with his father and his mother, House of Cards star Robin Wright, in a small town near San Francisco. But after more than a decade of marriage, his parents split when he was 14. 

Hopper didn’t handle it well. “I was young and thinking: ‘Are you just fucking with me and my sister?’ I mean, it was not the best. It was tough, talking to them,” he said. “Because they were both pretty broken too, I think.”

He started splitting time between his parents’ homes and eventually settled in Los Angeles full-time. A month later, he was injured in a skateboarding accident and had to undergo brain surgery. 

Things went downhill from there. He said he fell in with the “wrong crowd,” started smoking pot, and eventually turned to hard drugs. “I was doing a lot of stuff but meth was the main one that brought me down,” he said. 

Ultimately, it was his dad’s tough love that saved him. “I went to rehab because I woke up in a hospital and my dad said, ‘Rehab? Or bus bench?’ I was like, ‘I’ll take the bed,’” he said. “Thank God I got out of that because that was the worst time in my life. Because it’s not fun when it gets to a point where you just need it.”

After he sobered up, opportunity came knocking—in the form of a role in a film helmed by his father. “Maybe it was about giving me just a little structure, and just trying to get me to get my own thing going,” he said.

At first, Hopper was reluctant; he’d always sworn he wouldn’t go into acting like his parents. But eventually he agreed and by the end of the shoot, he started to like the process. “Since then, I’ve been like, ‘This is what I want to do.’”

Now, three years later, he’s made three movies and launched a modeling career—although he’s very modest about it all.  

“I wouldn’t call myself an actor, really,” he said. “Or a model. On the acting side, I’ve told myself when I do four movies, then I can consider myself an actor.”

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Keri Blakinger is a former drug user and current reporter living in Texas. She covers breaking news for the Houston Chronicle and previously worked for the New York Daily News and the Ithaca Times. She has written about drugs and criminal justice for the Washington Post, Salon, Quartz and more. She loves dogs and is not impressed by rodeo food. Find Keri on LinkedIn and Twitter.