Sean Penn only has eyes for Charlize Theron at UK premiere of The Gunman

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Sean Penn and Charlize Theron surprised everyone when their long-time friendship first blossomed into romance – more than a year on, the couple remain totally smitten. The Hollywood stars held hands as they walked the red carpet together for the premiere of Sean's new film, The Gunman, in London on Monday evening.

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It's little wonder that Sean is so taken with the beautiful blonde; Charlize, 39, stunned in a halterneck black dress featuring gold neckline detailing, her wavy locks worn loose around her shoulders. Sean – dressed in a suit and a skinny dark tie – was seen smiling and whispering sweetly in her ear as they posed together at the screening, their arms wrapped around each other.

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Sean Penn and Charlize Theron on the red carpet at The Gunman premiere

Also braving the cold and the rain at the BFI Southbank were the 54-year-old actor's co-stars, Idris Elba, Mark Rylance and Ray Winstone. Sean takes the lead role in the action film as Jim Terrier, an ex-special forces government contractor whose past comes back to haunt him when his former employer puts a hit on him.

His co-stars were effusive in their praise of the two-time Oscar winner. "I love Sean," Luther star Idris, 42, told the Evening Standard as he arrived for the premiere. "We had a great time and we got close. He's a very graceful actor, very real and very in-the-moment.

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The Hollywood stars were friends for 18 years before falling in love

"There was a lot of hanging out afterwards. He didn't give me any life lessons but we did become friends. I think he was amazing. He brought a depth to the action genre with his gravitas. It was great to watch a great actor do his thing."

Ray, 57, also spoke of his experience working with Sean for the first time. "I've been lucky enough to meet him beforehand. He's a chap, he shoots from the hip and he knows what he's talking about. He's an honest, straightforward kind of guy."