“It’s not that acting stopped challenging me, It’s more to do with the way I approach it emotionally — for me it’s like tearing your soul apart for money” — Sean Penn
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Sean Penn is saying that acting is emotionally challenging for him because he has to deeply immerse himself in his roles. He has to tap into raw emotions and vulnerable places to give a compelling performance. However, over time, doing this type of emotionally taxing work solely for financial compensation became dissatisfying to him on some level.
The money was no longer enough to justify how draining the process was emotionally and psychologically. He seems to imply that later in his career, acting roles had to align more with his artistic passions rather than just being jobs for a paycheck.