Sean Penn's 'Green Card' Joke to 'Birdman' Director Inarritu Spurs Controversy

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Sean Penn sparked controversy Sunday by making what some alleged was a "racist" joke at the expense of the Mexican director of "Birdman," the film which won four Academy Awards.

The two-time Oscar-winning actor asked the audience: "Who gave this son of a b***h a green card?" before revealing "Birdman" had triumphed as best picture. The movie was directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, who was also honored in that category.

Inarritu and Penn are friends, having worked together on "21 Grams." Inarritu later told reporters backstage that he found the joke "hilarious."

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The Latin Times ran an opinion piece about the incident under the headline: "Calm Down People: It Was A Joke Between Sean Penn And Alejandro G. Iñárritu!"

But many people were outraged by the gag.

"The problem w Sean Penn's statement is that it limits what #Latinos are entitled to — certainly nothing which belongs to whites," Entertainment Weekly reporter Nina Terrero wrote on Twitter.

Actor Mario Lopez added: "'Who gave this guy a green card?' Sean Penn talking about a Mexican dude to a room full of British & Australian people..."

Countless otherson the social network branded the comment "racist" and "offensive."

Actor Sean Penn, "Birdman" director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and producer John Lesher in the press room at the Academy Awards on Sunday night.Jason Merritt / Getty Images