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Penn, a young actor at the time whose best known work was as the surfer Jeff Spicoli in the teen comedy Fast Times at Ridgemont High, was putting a few back at On the Rox, the hidden speakeasy above The Roxy on the Sunset Strip. Penn spotted Harry Dean Stanton, 57, sitting at the bar and struck up a conversation.
“He regarded me highly,” Stanton later said. “And I was intrigued by him.” Stanton mentioned he was heading to Cannes the next day to attend the festival, where — unbeknownst to him — his film Paris, Texas would go on to win the Palme d’Or.
Penn asked if he could join him, to which Stanton replied, “Uh…OK.” So the two flew together to France. “All he brought with him was a passport and a toothbrush,” Stanton later recalled. The duo shared a hotel room for five days, at which point Stanton wanted some privacy and suggested Penn find new lodging.
So Penn ingratiated himself with De Niro and Joe Pesci, who were there supporting Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America. De Niro paid for a room at the Hotel du Cap for Penn.
Now 60, Penn appears at Cannes this year with his latest directorial effort, Flag Day, starring his daughter, Dylan Penn, and Josh Brolin.
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