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Penn weighs ‘Grams’ closing role

Gonzalez Inarritu's latest draws warm response

Sean Penn bookended the 41st New York Film Festival, appearing onstage closing night for Focus’ “21 Grams” more than two weeks after taking to the stage with “Mystic River” opening night.

“These are two very different styles of filmmaking,” Penn told Daily Variety. “As an actor in American movies, it’s such an encouraging thing for me to work with two great directors who have such different DNA.”

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu‘s “21 Grams” drew an unequivocally warm response from the normally reserved crowd Sunday, capping an edition judged by critics and fest regulars as one of the strongest in years.

“You always debate whether to premiere at the festival,” said Focus co-prexy James Schamus. “In our case, we open in November, so our reviews are coming out a month early. If the critical pack runs negatively, that’s something to overcome. But when it works like tonight, it really works; it’s something you can’t replicate with marketing or publicity.”

“This is the best audience in the world,” added helmer Gonzalez Inarritu.

Also attending the after-party at uptown eaterie Compass were pic’s Benicio Del Toro, Naomi Watts, Melissa Leo and Clea DuVall, screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga, producer Robert Salerno and Focus co-prexy David Linde.

Other guests braving the cold Manhattan night included Robin Wright Penn, Sam Rockwell, Robin Williams, Gael Garcia Bernal, Natalie Portman, Casey Affleck, Josh Charles, Gina Gershon and Ryan Gosling.

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