Influential Penick makes difference on and off stage
He spent 36 years as an executive in the risk management and insurance industry, taught a class for Auburn freshmen, and was president of the Atlanta Auburn Club. But to his grandchildren, he’s also Mr. Hapgood—Peter Parker’s shop class teacher in the recent blockbuster, “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”
“I’m not doing this for the money,” says the charismatic John Penick, 76, who didn’t begin acting until a few years ago when students pleaded with him to take a chance. “I’m doing this because I really enjoy it. Plus, my grandkids enjoy seeing me. They told all of their friends, “My grandfather was in “Spider-Man!”
Penick, a 1967 Harbert College of Business graduate and Kennesaw, Ga., resident, spotted an “auditions Tuesday” sign in the window of a Cartersville, Ga., theater and took former students up on their advice. “The name of the play was ‘Arsenic and Old Lace.’ I went up there, and lo and behold, I’m in that play,” he says.
After acquiring an agent, Penick’s star was on the rise, earning him parts in small productions. “Then all of the sudden my agent calls me and says, ‘I’ve got you an audition for “Spider-Man”,’” he says. “They read your resumé and it says that you were a college teacher. A month and a half later, they gave me the part.”
Though Penick isn’t a web-slinger like his masked co-star, he chooses to cast a web of influence upon others.
“When I was President of the Atlanta Auburn Club, a young man from Andalusia, Alabama, called me and says, ‘Mr. Penick, I just graduated from Auburn and nobody wants to give me a job,’” Penick recalls. “I says, ‘Hold it right there, young man. Let me tell you something. Nobody wants to give you a damn thing in the business world. You’ve got to earn it. You’ve got to command respect. You’ve got to bring value to the situation.’”
Penick knows a thing or two about how business operates. After all, he retired as a vice president from Crawford and Company. “If you’re looking for a job you’ve got to bring something different to the party,” he says. “When you go to that interview, don’t go in there needing a haircut, chewing gum and needing a shine on your shoes. That shows disrespect. You’ve got to blow the socks off of somebody. Do your research on the company.”
He even suggested that job prospects make potential employers an offer. “Tell them, ‘Let me come to work for you for 30 days and you pay me nothing,’” he suggested. “‘At the end of the 30 days, you can evaluate me and I’ll be evaluating you. Then we can see where we need to go from there.’ Command their recognition and bring something new to the table. Show how you can bring that organization value. I guarantee if you show value, you’ll get a job.”
Penick continues to show value to the film industry. “My agent says there are not a lot of old ducks around town doing this stuff and have a personality,” he says. “In the last two weeks, I’ve done 14 auditions.”
He will co-star this year in “St. Agatha,” a psychological horror movie.