Durban - Patrons at a fast food restaurant in eManzimtoti couldn’t believe their eyes when acting legend and two-time Oscar winner, Sean Penn, walked in last week and placed an order for a burger and chips.
According to a diner, who asked not to be identified, Penn was “as laid-back as any ordinary bloke”.
“It was hard to believe he hobnobs with politicians and acting royalty all the time. He just got stuck into his Wimpy meal, and then tipped the waiter and left.
“He was recognised by a couple of people, and one lady plucked up the courage to ask him for a kiss. And he gave her one. She looked like she might pass out from excitement.”
Another source said Penn had been spotted entering The Oyster Box, the five-star uMhlanga Rocks hotel favoured by Princess Charlene of Monaco and her husband Prince Albert and, more recently, by Penn’s new flame, South African actress Charlize Theron.
The two have been an item for several months, and were recently spotted together at the Augrabies Falls in the Northern Cape.
They were thought to be scouting for locations for the coming film The Last Face, which Penn will direct.
Theron will star as the female love interest opposite Javier Bardem, in what is being billed as a “heart-wrenching love story”.
The star-spotter who reported seeing Penn at The Oyster Box said: “He was wearing a scruffy pair of jeans and a T-shirt, with a cap, and you could easily have missed him because there was no fanfare whatsoever.”
On Thursday Penn was in Cape Town, where he visited the low-key Dias Tavern with a group of local film producers.
The actor and screenwriter is well known for his political activism and his humanitarian work. He is known to have provided support for victims of Hurricane Katrina and the 2010 Haiti earthquake.
Married briefly to pop star Madonna, Penn had a relatively long second marriage to actress Robin Wright, with whom he has two children, a daughter, Dylan, 23, and a son, Hopper, 20.
He is following a pattern of involving his partners in his projects. Madonna sang the theme song, Live To Tell, for his 1986 film At Close Range, and Penn starred with Wright in the 1998 drama Hurlyburly.
The 53-year-old seems smitten with Theron, and has been repeatedly photographed with her and her young adopted son, Jackson, in recent weeks.
Hollywood gossip magazines say shooting on The Last Face will begin in the next few months, as soon as it gets the green light from producers.
The lead producer on the project is said to be Bill Pohlad, who was also one of the producers on this year’s 12 Years A Slave, which won a slew of Oscar awards, including best picture.
In the new movie, Theron is set to play a doctor doing humanitarian work in Africa.
Bardem’s character is doing similar work, and the two become romantically involved, but are faced with searing moral dilemmas during a period of civil unrest.
One of their co-stars will be Adèle Exarchopoulos, who played a lesbian lover in the controversial movie Blue Is The Warmest Color, released earlier this year. She is expected to play a journalist.
Theron and Penn seem to be at the height of their romance, and don’t mind who knows about it.
Both are generally reserved in public, but a US gossip magazine reported they were “making out like crazy” at Madonna’s post-Oscars bash at her manager Guy Oseary’s Los Angeles mansion last month.
A source said: “They were the talk of the party – even Madonna noticed.”
Late last month it was reported that Theron and Penn were considering adopting a Haitian orphan together.
The source said: “Charlize was an only child and always wished for a brother or sister. It’s important to her that Jackson has a sibling.
“Sean is passionate about Haiti, so adopting from there makes sense. They hope to adopt by the end of the year.”