Lena Dunham Recalls Telling Penny Marshall 'I Don't Smile on Command' During an Early Audition

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Lena Dunham, Penny Marshall
Lena Dunham, Penny Marshall

Bruce Glikas/WireImage; Chris Weeks/Getty Lena Dunham and Penny Marshall

Lena Dunham is opening up about an early audition that did not end well for the young actress.

While appearing on a recent episode of SiriusXM's The Jess Cagle Show, Dunham, 36, remembered an audition she did for late director Penny Marshall as a child.

The Girls alum said she went out for a role in Marshall's Riding in Cars with Boys at the age of 12 and when asked to introduce herself, her response apparently did not sit well with the acclaimed filmmaker.

"I understand why I didn't get the role," Dunham admitted. "Because she asked all the young actors to say our name, our height, where we were from, and smile...and I said, 'I'm Lena, I'm from New York, and I don't smile on command.' And Penny Marshall said, 'It's called acting, honey.'"

Looking back on that experience, Dunham said Marshall — who died in 2018 — was "right."

"Would you hire an actor who is like 'I'm sorry, I can't smile on command'?," Dunham, who's also now a director, said.

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She continued, "The thing is, I'm with Penny on this one. I remember going home and knowing that I had 'screwed the pooch' so to speak, and my mother says that I lay in bed for like a week and moaned 'my career is over.'"

Despite the outcome of the audition, Dunham told hosts Cagle and Julia Cunningham that meeting Marshall was "very big" after explaining that the movie she has seen the most times is Marshall's A League of Their Own. The actress remembered even "getting in trouble" after watching a rented tape so many times that it "broke."

Lena Dunham (R) and Luis Felber
Lena Dunham (R) and Luis Felber

Tommaso Boddi/Getty Luis Felber and Lena Dunham

When speaking to PEOPLE at the Los Angeles premiere of her latest film, Sharp Stick, last week, Dunham said she was "thrilled" to be debuting the movie, her first time directing a feature since 2010's Tiny Furniture.

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"We didn't get to go to Sundance because it was all virtual," she said. "So this is my first time seeing it in the theater, this is my first time seeing it with my friends, first time seeing it with the cast."

"So I'm just thrilled," Dunham adds. "It feels like a very relaxed atmosphere in which to do it."

Dunham attended the event with husband Luis Felber who she confirmed to PEOPLE she married in September.