Veteran actor Hal Holbrook was amazed when Sean Penn cast him in his recent movie Into The Wild, because he hadn't heard from the actor-turned-director since they co-starred in a 1981 TV movie. Holbrook and his wife Dixie Carter became fans of the then-shy 20-year-old when they became friends on the set of The Killing Of Randy Webster, but the aged actor felt sure Penn had forgotten all about him. Then, 26 years later, 82-year-old Holbrook was stunned when Penn phoned him to offer a part in his latest film. Holbrook says, "He wanted to meet me in the bar and talk. I realised he was coming to offer me a part (in Into The Wild) and it is the best part I've had in the movies." Holbrook admits his old friend has really grown since he was the shy kid on a 1981 film set: "He didn't have much to say (on the set of The Killing Of Randy Webster), he was very non-verbal. But we (Holbrook and his wife Dixie) would watch him and you could see he had talent, something really unusual. "You know when you are young and nobody tells you you're good. When you need encouragement, nobody tells you. So I told him. So did Dixie - a little bit here, a little bit there that he really had something special. "About a week or so after the end of the movie, we get a letter from this young man thanking us for encouraging him, which is by itself an unusual thing. What never left my mind, though, was the literary quality of the letter. Because this young man was very quiet, you wouldn't think of him being able to write such a fine, beautifully composed letter."