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Chavez: Sean Penn may film in Venezuela

Project would be based on an Alejo Carpentier novel

CARACAS, Venezuela -- President Hugo Chavez said he met privately with actor Sean Penn on Wednesday, and that the Oscar-winning celebrity may film a movie in Venezuela.

Penn may shoot a film based on a novel by Cuban writer Alejo Carpentier, which is set largely in the jungle along Venezuela's southern Orinoco river, Chavez said. He appeared to be referring to Carpentier's 1953 novel, "The Lost Steps," about an American anthropologist and composer's journey into the jungle region.

Penn's publicist could not immediately be reached for comment.

Chavez added that he discussed politics with Penn, who said he would soon see U.S. President Barack Obama. Chavez said he'd asked Penn to tell Obama he should take action to earn his Nobel Peace Prize, and should scrap a plan for the U.S. military to increase its presence at bases in Colombia.

"They gave him the Nobel Prize, very well, now he should earn it," the socialist leader said, paraphrasing an open letter by documentary filmmaker Michael Moore to the U.S. president.

Chavez also applauded Moore's work, and dismissed comments the director made during an interview with Jimmy Kimmel on ABC earlier this month. Moore said he'd drunk tequila with Chavez at the Venice Film Festival and offered the Venezuelan president suggestions for an upcoming speech at the United Nations.

The comments drew criticism from some Chavez's supporters in Venezuela. But Chavez dismissed the controversy.

"They don't understand humor," he said, pointing out the interview was held on a talk show hosted by a comedian.

Penn arrived in Venezuela from Cuba, where he was reportedly seeking an interview with the nation's ailing former leader, 83-year-old Fidel Castro. Last year, Penn was the first American to obtain an interview with Castro's younger brother, current President Raul Castro, after he was named interim president in late July 2006. The interview appeared in the Dec. 15 edition of The Nation magazine and on the magazine's Web site last November.

This is Penn's third visit with Chavez, who has welcomed a host of celebrities to the presidential palace, including supermodel Naomi Campbell and actors Danny Glover and Benicio del Toro.