Sean Penn, Leonardo DiCaprio share love at Haiti fundraiser

Sean Penn Brad Pitt

Left: Sean Penn in Oct. 2014 image by Casa Rosada (Presidency of the Nation of Argentina), and right: Brad Pitt photographed in 2009 by SpreePiX, Budapest, Hungary. Both images licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Sean Penn and Leonardo DiCaprio used the eighth annual benefit for the J/P Haitian Relief Organization to publicly praise each other’s philanthropic work.

DiCaprio was the guest of honor at the $5,000-a-plate dinner Saturday night at Milk Studios, which raised nearly $4 million for Penn’s Haitian Relief Organization and its nonprofit partners.

DiCaprio was recognized for 20 years of supporting environmental causes through his namesake foundation.

Penn said DiCaprio’s work motivated him to start his own charitable organization after the devastating earthquake in 2010 that left thousands of Haitians homeless and without basic resources.

“As much as anyone, the inspiration for me was from Leo DiCaprio,” Penn said. “Here was this young guy who had not only continued to create so productively but had also created what takes a kind of Herculean effort.”

Penn praised DiCaprio’s personal commitment to protecting wildlife and advocating for the planet, as well as the actor’s general optimism.

“That’s why he deserves to be honored and that’s why we dragged him down here to be honored,” Penn said. “Who else do you know who’s doing what you’re doing around this town?”

DiCaprio returned the praise as he accepted his award, calling Penn an inspiration and a role model.

DiCaprio also supported Penn’s cause by bidding $80,000 on a painting during a live auction at the gala. “Game of Thrones” star Emilia Clarke had her eye on the same piece and ultimately outbid the Oscar winner before the artist who made the painting revealed two copies were available. Clarke and DiCaprio each got their own for $80,000 each.

Brad Pitt got in on the auction as well. He bid $60,000 on a painting, but Arnold Schwarzenegger outdid him and won with $70,000. Pitt was successful on another lot, though: an exclusive experience with the San Antonio Spurs, which he snapped up for $40,000.

Other items up for auction included a private dinner with chef Jose Andres and Anderson Cooper, which sold for $50,000, and a Game of Thrones viewing party with Clarke, which went for $160,000. (Pitt bid twice on that one but didn’t prevail.)

The most expensive item auctioned was a painting by Urs Fisher that sold for $1.5 million.

Penn has hosted a fundraiser for J/P HRO on the eve of the Golden Globes since he established the charity in 2010. Saturday’s guests included Globes nominee and presenter Susan Sarandon, along with Garcelle Beauvais, Tobey Maguire, Patricia Arquette, Kit Harrington, Beck, Lena Dunham and Allison Williams.

The event featured an update on J/P HRO’s work — which has expanded with new partnerships that helped provide hurricane relief in Puerto Rico, Texas, Florida and the Virgin Islands — and several performances. Celebrated ballerinas Sergei Polunin and Natalia Osipova performed solos, actress and dancer Sofia Boutella did a routine directed by Madonna, and singer-songwriter James Taylor closed the evening with a nine-song set.


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By SANDY COHEN, AP Entertainment Writer

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