Screen star Sean Penn has hit back at those who criticised his trips to war-torn Iraq, labelling them "envious".

The Mystic River actor was prepared for a cynical backlash before even embarking on the trip because he recognises many of the people who attack celebrities for trying to make a difference politically are simply "failed actors" themselves.

He says, "It's interesting. I haven't broken this down but I would say that about half of the loudest talking heads are people who are on the record as failed actors, people who are envious.

"So I just feel you ignore them. I knew what it was going to be like before I went on that trip."

The 44-year-old OSCAR winner, who printed an open letter of protest to President George W Bush in THE WASHINGTON POST, insists that now is the time to rebuild Iraq, following the US-led invasion of the Middle East country.

He continues, "Going to Iraq was one of the greatest experiences of my life and I don't regret it. What I regret is that we made the decisions we made and for the reasons we made them without a debate and without truth.

"Going back a year later, clearly it's not a war or anti-war position. You start to think, 'OK, how can we make this really work for people?'"

06/04/2005 21:30