23/01/2012 03:08 GMT | Updated 23/03/2012 05:12 GMT

Sean Penn Plays Rock Star In 'This Must Be The Place', Calls Stardom 'Celebrity Disease'

Actor Sean Penn has attacked stardom as "an obscene disease of celebrity" and revealed he had often thought about ducking out of the limelight.

His new film, This Must Be The Place, which had its US premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah, casts him as a former rock star who turns his back on stardom and goes into exile overseas.

Penn, 51, plays Cheyenne, a raven-maned, mascara-caked former pop icon whose look was inspired by Robert Smith of The Cure. The childlike Cheyenne has left behind the glamour of his old life and now lives quietly in Ireland with his firefighter wife, played by Frances McDormand.

Cheyenne later embarks on a road trip across the United States to track down a former Nazi who brutalised his father in a concentration camp.

Penn, who first came to Utah about 27 years ago with The Falcon And The Snowman, said he empathised with Cheyenne's decision to get out of the spotlight.

"Turning one's back on stardom might be the highest form of common sense. One that I would aspire to be more complete with," he said.

"I don't think it's an overstatement to say that it's an obscene disease of celebrity that's taken over far too much of the life that we do live.

"I think it's a disease. I think that it's diminished the quality of life. Not particularly for the people who are the focus of it, though that is clearly something that I've been compromised by. But for the culture at large, there is this kind of herd commitment. ... I think it's just become cheap."

This Must Be The Place opens in US cinemas in March. Watch the trailer here: