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Sean Penn Admits That He Bombed The Audition For One Of His Most Iconic Films By Being Difficult

So much for tasty waves and a cool buzz…

1982’s Fast Times At Ridgemont High launched multiple high-profile careers, including those of Sean Penn — who went on to win two Best Actor Oscars for Milk and Mystic River and have a beard-off competition with Mel Gibson — Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Judge Reinhold. Certainly, the Amy Heckerling-directed and Cameron Crowe-penned film gave Penn his first major film role (as stereotypical surfer dude Jeff Spicoli), although it almost never happened, as Penn revealed on Wednesday night’s edition of The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon. We almost had to watch someone else smack themselves in the head with a sneaker while shouting, “That was my skull! I’m so wasted!” Madness.

That detail slipped out while Penn was promoting the Dane Cook(?)-organized virtual table read fundraiser (in which Penn will voice a character other than Spicoli?) for Community Organized Relief Effort. Penn admitted that he doesn’t exactly relish the audition experience, and he’s always felt that way. This attitude might not hurt Penn so much these days, but back when he was unknown, it was bad news:

“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. And that gave me an awful lot of confidence. And I read the part and I said, ‘I know this thing.’”

As it turns out, he didn’t know this thing, and Penn crashed and burned hard during this audition. He did “terribly, flat,” and then he left the building, but fortunately for Penn, a casting director saw something to him and followed Penn while telling him to “get back in here and audition your ass off.” Mr. Hand would have been proud.

Watch the full clip with Penn and Fallon below.