‘Boy, that looks like Sean Penn.’ Oscar-winning actor spotted filming in SLO County

Actor, director and activist Sean Penn recently did some whale watching in San Luis Obispo County.

The two-time Oscar winner was spotted Sept. 6 at the Piedras Blancas elephant seal viewing area off Highway 1 north of San Simeon, according to Carolyn Chambers, a docent with local nonprofit organization Friends of the Elephant Seal.

At first, Chambers thought the actor just a Penn lookalike.

“I saw him and I thought, ‘Boy, that looks like Sean Penn.’ I bet that guy hears that all the time,” the Cambria resident recalled.

But her doubts disappeared when he started chatting with her and her fellow docents.

“What really surprised me was, he was a lot shorter than I thought he’d be,” she added.

Penn, who was accompanied by a small camera crew, only spent about 30 minutes at the spot.

However, he and his crew captured video of a “very spectacular whale show off the Piedras Blancas rocks,” Chambers said, featuring at least two humpback whales breaching and “jumping around in the water.”

Sean Penn instagram.JPG
Actor Sean Penn stops by the Piedras Blancas elephant seal viewing area off Highway 1 north San Simeon in this photo, shared by his daughter, Dylan Penn, on Instagram on Sept. 6, 2019. Sean Penn was filming footage for his upcoming movie “Flag Day.” Dylan Penn

Penn told docents he was filming footage for his upcoming movie “Flag Day,” about a daughter struggling with the legacy of her con man father.

Penn directs and stars in the movie, leading a cast that includes Josh Brolin, Miles Teller and Penn’s children, Dylan and Hopper Penn.

Dylan Penn, whose acting credits include “Elvis & Nixon,” posted a photo of her dad at Piedras Blancas on Instagram with the caption “back at it #flagday.”

The director of “Into the Wild,” Penn won Academy Awards for his performances in “Mystic River” and “Milk.” His other movies include “21 Grams,” “Dead Man Walking” and “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.”

Chambers, a retired biology professor and administrator turned artist, said Penn is possibly the highest profile visitor she’s seen at Piedras Blancas.

“That was definitely the most exciting day of my entire career as a docent,” she said with a chuckle.

Related stories from San Luis Obispo Tribune

Entertainment editor Sarah Linn writes about all things fun, including movies, television, the performing arts, the visual arts and the best places to eat and drink in San Luis Obispo County. A graduate of Oregon State University, she has worked for The Tribune in San Luis Obispo for more than a decade and has earned multiple California journalism awards.