76-Year-Old Alabama Grandfather Makes Big Screen Debut in ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’
"You can't make a movie in the South without at least one Auburn guy in it!"
It was easy for fans to get wrapped up in New York City’s web-slinging superhero when Spider-Man: Homecoming made its debut this summer. Yet Southerners may be pleased to know that Peter Parker aka Spider-Man was actually a student of a Mobile, Alabama, native. Okay, that’s only slightly true if you live within the fictional Marvel Universe. But in the summer blockbuster movie, Alabama’s own John Penick landed the role of Peter Parker’s high school teacher, Mr. Hapgood, and his grandkids couldn’t be more thrilled!
"You can't miss me," Penick told AL.com.
Penick auditioned for Spider-Man: Homecoming last June. Two months later, after anxiously awaiting to hear if he got the part, he finally got the life-changing phone call. According to Penick, he filmed his one scene last July at Grady High School in Atlanta, Georgia—not too far from where he now resides in Kennesaw. Although originally his role included three lines, his speaking part was eventually edited down to just one line.
After working in corporate America and later as a teacher (in real life) at Auburn University, where he also graduated from, it’s fair to say Penick caught the acting bug late in life. He made his acting debut on stage in the play Arsenic and Old Lace in 2013 in Cartersville, Georgia, but Homecoming was his first major role on the big screen. Not a bad start for the 76-year-old, who said he would’ve gladly taken the role for free.
"I would have done it [Spider-Man: Homecoming] for nothing," Penick said. "The movie has taken off like gangbusters."
Obviously the experience has paid off for Penick, as audiences will get a chance to see him in the near future in his second movie, St. Agatha. The film, which is currently in post-production, was shot in Madison, Georgia—just an hour east of the new Southern film mecca: Atlanta. Penick’s grandkids, to no one’s surprise, are also following in their grandfather’s footsteps. One of them just recently auditioned for a local production of The Wizard of Oz.
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As for his plans to continue to pursue acting, Penick said this: "I'm still playing golf, full of you-know-what, and I've got all my hair." We’ll take that as a resounding yes.