Sean Penn Recalls Why His Fast Times at Ridgemont High Audition Went 'Terribly'

Sean Penn stars as Jeff Spicoli in the 1982 teen film 

Sean Penn is reminiscing on his audition for his breakthrough role in Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

Penn, 59, appeared on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon Wednesday night and discussed the '80s teen film, in which he stars as Jeff Spicoli.

“I heard a story that when you auditioned for Fast Times,” Fallon said. “You came in for the audition and you said ‘I’m not gonna audition. I know who Spicoli is so if you want to see him you have to hire me.’”

“It's mostly true,” Penn replied, launching into the story of the audition he says went “terribly.”

“The way I remember it was that I — long before I had a penny in my pocket — had a kind of feeling of entitlement as an actor, not because I thought I was so good, but because I thought that the rest were not so good,” the Oscar-winning actor said. “And that gave me an awful lot of confidence.”

Fast Times At Ridgemont High
Fast Times At Ridgemont High (1982). Universal/Kobal/Shutterstock

Penn then added that this was true for all auditions he did at the time, noting that he “resented auditions” and therefore “was terrible at it and self-conscious.”

“But I auditioned — terribly,” he continued. “So they dismissed me and I left.”

Somehow, however, he got a second chance when a casting director named Don Phillips saw something in young Penn.

“Don Phillips came running into the parking lot where my broken down Mazda I borrowed was sitting and I was just about to leave,” Penn said. “And he said ‘Get back in here and audition your ass off,’ something like that. He says, 'You're not going anywhere.’”

“And off of that they took a gamble and then we had a great time making the movie,” he added.

Penn’s trip down memory lane was prompted by an upcoming Fast Times at Ridgemont High virtual table read, taking place to raise money for his nonprofit, CORE. Penn will not be reading for Spicoli, but he was unable to say exactly who will be taking over the hilarious role.

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