The fiercely independent actor--who, when he's not threatening to quit acting, regularly disses mainstream Hollywood--is reportedly ready to make some new Friends.
He's signed on for a recurring role in the NBC sitcom, Daily Variety reports, playing the boyfriend of Ursula, the twin sister of Lisa Kudrow's Phoebe.
Penn was supposed to be on the set this week (production has been temporarily halted due to the terrorist attacks), according to Variety. No official word on when his episodes will air, although November sweeps seems likeliest.
The casting news is one of those Hollywood head-scratchers. Penn's disdain for formulaic entertainment and the Industry machine is so great he refuses to attend the Oscars, even the two times he's been nominated.
He's frequently sounding off in interviews about actors selling out--even ripping former pal Nicolas Cage for giving up on indie films in favor of blockbuster movies. "As damaged as I am, as reckless as I've been, I never murdered my own 'voice.' I think actors shit on their profession all the time," he told Newsweek in 1999.
The remark caused a huge rift between the two thesps, who had been buddies since their Fast Times in Ridgemont High days.
While Penn, 41, is better known for intense drama these days, he did get his start yukking it up in Fast Times. And despite his grousing, he's no stranger to sitcoms, having gone for giggles playing himself in Ellen and The Larry Sanders Show.
Friends is obviously hoping for a spark from Penn's presence. Although the show is NBC's second-highest rated comedy (behind Frasier) and still one of the top-ranked shows in all of TVdom, its ratings have been hurt by head-to-head competition from CBS' Survivor.
The Penn stunt is seen as an attempt to stanch the bleeding Nielsens, while adding to the star-studded list of guest actors on the show. Over the past seven seasons, Billy Crystal, Julia Roberts, Winona Ryder, Susan Sarandon, Robin Williams and Bruce Willis have all made appearances.
The new Friends season kicks off September 20.