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Sean Penn Recalls His 'Fast Times at Ridgemont High' Audition Got Hostile

"Long before I had a penny in my pocket, I had a kind of feeling of entitlement as an actor," the Oscar winner said on Wednesday night's 'Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon'
Sean Penn   |   Emma McIntyre/Getty Images
"Long before I had a penny in my pocket, I had a kind of feeling of entitlement as an actor," the Oscar winner said on Wednesday night's 'Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon'

Sean Penn admits he has been cantankerous since the start of his career. 

While a guest Wednesday on The Tonight Show to mostly talk about the work his Community Organized Relief Effort nonprofit is doing with coronavirus testing across the country, the Oscar-winning actor had a few laughs recalling what a pain he was during his Fast Times at Ridgemont High audition. 

The 59-year-old Penn played the memorable Jeff Spicoli, his first large role in a film. However, he told host Jimmy Fallon it was somewhat of a miracle he landed the gig as his audition for the beloved 1982 film was a mess. 

"Long before I had a penny in my pocket, I had a kind of feeling of entitlement as an actor, not because I thought that I was so good, but because I thought the rest were not so good," Penn told Fallon. "And that gave me an awful lot of confidence. And I read the part and I said, 'I know this thing.'"

Penn admitted that he has always resented auditioning, so he has always been "awful at it." He expected to get a job, so he had a chip on his shoulder while reading, even when he was a nobody. 

"I needed the mask of it being a job to get the music in me and go," Penn said. "I auditioned terribly, flat, and I knew I wasn't willing to do the music of this character that I thought it was." 

Penn was dismissed. But as he was getting into his car, one of the casting directors ran after him and told him to come back, drop the attitude and really try, or "get back in here and audition your ass off," Penn recalled. It worked. And the rest is history. 

Penn is participating in an upcoming Fast Times at Ridgemont High virtual table read fundraiser for CORE. Comic Dane Cook put the idea together. Penn will read a character, but it will not be Spicoli. 

Watch the full segment below. 

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