Kal Penn Teases Role as Anna Nicole Smith’s Doctor in Movie About Model’s Life: It’s a ‘Drama’ but ‘Equal Parts Ridiculous’

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Kal Penn admits he didn’t know much about Anna Nicole Smith’s physician, Dr. Sandeep Kapoor, before he was approached to star as the doctor in the indie adaptation of his memoir, “Trust Me, I’m a Doctor.”

“But then I read the doctor’s autobiography and found it interesting and compelling,” Penn told me Monday night at the South Asians at the Oscars party on the Paramount lot.

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Variety’s Tatiana Siegel exclusively reported Feb. 23 that Penn is set to portray Sandeep in “Trust Me, I’m a Doctor,” which chronicles Smith’s final days before dying of an accidental overdose in 2007 at the age of 39. Kapoor became entangled in Smith’s death when reports surfaced that he wrote her prescriptions to addictive drugs.

Written and directed by Thane Economou (“The Wedding Party”), the movie is a “drama,” Penn said, but it will be “equal parts ridiculous” because of some of the “larger than life personalities” involved with Smith as well as the tabloid media’s wall-to-wall coverage of the one-time Playboy model.

Casting for Smith is still underway, but Penn, who is also executive producing the project with Dan Spilo, said he believes an actor will be announced “soon” because shooting begins in the spring.

Penn said he’s trying to “spend as much time with” Sandeep before filming. “I live in New York and he practices in Los Angeles, so I’ve come out here to shadow him,” the actor said.

“Trust Me, I’m a Doctor” is the second film about Smith to move forward in recent months. In late December, the biopic “Hurricanna” wrapped production, with Sylvia Hoeks playing Smith and Holly Hunter as her therapist.

Penn also weighed on on Jon Stewart’s return to “The Daily Show.” Penn was one of the guest hosts for the Comedy Central show when the network was still seeking a successor to Trevor Noah following his departure from behind the desk in 2022.

“When they decided to defer the permanent host decision for a year, obviously, I think the four or five of us who were in the last running were like, ‘Oh, what a bummer. But also, who’s it going to be?’” Penn said. “Then you read the news and they’re bringing Jon back for Mondays for a year — this is golden for us as fans of the show. The 19-year-old me was very, very excited.”

Penn insists he never got caught up too much in thinking he would be offered the permanent hosting spot, but said “the closer you get, the more excited you are.”

Penn was among the hosts for the South Asians at the Oscars party. “Back in the day there were like 10 of us maybe,” he said about South Asian representation in Hollywood. “You’d go on an audition for like a two-line part where you’d have to throw on an accent for a not-very-smart producer. And the competition was like 15 other white dudes in brown face who would show up to the audition.”

Thankfully, he said, things have improved since then. “I don’t think there’s any one kind of end goal,” Penn said about the shift to increase diversity and equity. “But I certainly think, especially more recently, that streaming platforms are kind of responsible for a lot of content that more traditional studios might have said, ‘No, we don’t know if we’re ready for something like this.’”

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