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LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Sean Penn is taking his Oscar and going home.
The "Milk" star has dropped out of two high-profile films: "The Three Stooges" and the crime thriller "Cartel," taking an extended leave from Hollywood so that he can focus on family matters. Sources have said the absence could last up to a year.
In May, Penn filed for a request to dismiss his legal separation case from wife Robin Wright Penn. It is the second time he has rescinded divorce proceedings.
The dilemma for "The Stooges" is potentially more serious. Writer/directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly have spent the better part of a decade trying to get the MGM film off the ground, and in March they pulled off a major casting coup: Penn as Larry, with Jim Carrey as Curly and Benicio del Toro as Moe.
Now they need to decide whether they will wait for Penn or seek to find a new actor.
Time and availability are the issues: "Stooges" was eyeing a late August start date, and MGM has slotted it for a 2010 release. If the studio does wait, it could risk losing Carrey and del Toro. On the other hand, half of Hollywood would poke their eyes out for the part.
Universal and producer Imagine Entertainment, meanwhile, plan to move ahead on "Cartel" without Penn and will recast the part. The script, which is still being worked on, follows a man who journeys to protect his son after his wife is murdered by Mexican drug cartels. Asger Leth is directing. The movie had no start date or release date.
Penn has two movies in the can, Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life" and Doug Liman's adaptation of Valerie Plame's political memoir, "Fair Game."
Editing by Dean Gooodman at Reuters