During a promotional tour for his upcoming film "The Gunman," the 54-year-old actor told the Associated Press that he has "absolutely no apologies" for ribbing Inarritu, the Mexican-born director of "Birdman," while presenting that film with best picture honors at this year's Academy Awards.
Announcing the award — the fourth of the night for Inarritu's film — Penn said, "Who gave this son of a bitch his green card?"
Penn's remark sparked outrage on Twitter, although Inarritu himself said he found the joke "hilarious" while speaking to reporters backstage. Inarritu, who directed Penn in "21 Grams" and remains friendly with the actor, added, "Sean and I have that kind of brutal [relationship] where only true friendship can survive."
Addressing the ruckus on Saturday, Penn said, "I'm always surprised by flagrant stupidity. I keep having more hope."
Doubling down on not apologizing, Penn said, "In fact, I have a big '[expletive] you' for every … anybody who is so stupid not to have gotten the irony when you've got a country that is so xenophobic. If they had their way, you wouldn't have great filmmakers like Alejandro working in this country. Thank god we do."
Penn's joke came during an Oscars ceremony marked by politically charged moments. Host Neil Patrick Harris set the tone during his opening monologue by quipping, "Tonight we honor Hollywood's best and whitest. Sorry, brightest" — a reference to the perceived lack of diversity surrounding the awards.
Music artists John Legend and Common, who won for original song for the "Selma" number "Glory," used their acceptance speech to highlight the parallels between the civil rights era and the present day. "Selma is now because the struggle for justice is right now," Legend said.
Inarritu, meanwhile, dedicated his best picture award to the people of Mexico and asked that immigrants in the U.S. be treated with the "dignity and respect" they deserve.
Follow @ogettell for movie news