On Thursday, Tom Petty and Mudcrutch unveiled their new video for “I Forgive It All,” a somber ballad that ruminated on mercy, poverty and aging. The video, shot all over Los Angeles, including Sunset Boulevard and downtown’s Skid Row, stars Anthony Hopkins and was co-directed by Sean Penn and Samuel Bayer. Speaking to Rolling Stone, Penn discusses how he became involved in the project, why “I Forgive It All” resonates with him and what it’s like to direct the great Anthony Hopkins.
“They played me the record a couple weeks earlier and that one really stuck out to me,” Penn says of hearing Mudcrutch’s new LP 2. “[Tom] called me back and said, ‘Hey, let’s talk about this thing.’” The song had made such an impression on Penn that he began to visualize a short film to accompany the track.
Penn and Bayer shot the video in one day, opting for a minimal setup to avoid being invasive. “It’s always a little tricky down there,” Penn says. “But we kept a very small footprint so we weren’t dragging a bunch of huge equipment around.”
Although the video utilizes Oscar-winning actor Anthony Hopkins, who gives a stark, commanding performance, Penn and Bayer were mindful to keep the music in the spotlight.
“The song made such an impression on me,” Penn says. “So much of it was going to be about what the actor was holding in his head. I didn’t want to even articulate the story so much. I had a little backstory for myself, but I just wanted to shoot this in the way that wouldn’t bury the song.”
After settling on a concept, Penn and Bayer brought their idea to Petty. “Tom was super encouraging,” the actor says. “I went over with Sam and told him what I had in mind and he said, ‘Go for it.’ His song is so strong anyway and I just found it so moving. It’s just great songwriting.”
As for directing Hopkins, Penn – a two-time Best Actor winner in his own right – says, “He is just an artist for art’s sake and he just liked the idea of doing it and jumping in. I just asked him and he said yes. It’s that simple.”“
Additional reporting by Jason Fine