Unthinkable as it may be, Fast Times at Ridgemont High very nearly happened without Sean Penn.

The actor, who had his breakthrough with the role of stoner Jeff Spicoli in the 1982 film, recalled his "terrible" audition for the movie on The Tonight Show on Wednesday. Penn attributed the poor quality of his audition to his arrogant attitude as a young, struggling actor, telling host Jimmy Fallon, "Long before I had a penny in my pocket, I had kind of a feeling of entitlement as an actor. Not because I thought I was so good, but because I thought the rest were not so good. And that gave me an awful lot of confidence."

"I read this part and I thought, 'I know this thing,'" Penn continues. "But this was true of all auditions. I resented every audition, and hence I was terrible at it... I wanted them to just give it to me, trust me."

When he went to read for the part of Spicoli, Penn says, he performed "terribly, and flat," and was dismissed. However, casting director Don Phillips ran out to the parking lot to retrieve him, telling Penn, "Get back in here, and audition your ass off."

"As a result of that faith, I kind of gave it a little bit, and off of that, they took a gamble, and then we had a great time making the movie," Penn says.

The actor also teased an upcoming charity table read of the film, organized by Dane Cook, in which he will be participating, though not in the role of Spicoli. "The people involved in this, it's all people you know," Penn says. "I don't know if it's a secret, but I have to leave it. It's Dane's thing." Proceeds from the table read will support CORE, Penn's charity that is currently working to provide COVID-19 relief.

You can watch the full clip above.

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Fast Times at Ridgemont High
  • Movie
  • 90 minutes

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