Looks like … more than friends? Sean Penn and Minka Kelly were photographed together at a table at a gala on Wednesday, April 13, looking like a couple.
The two were among the many stars to celebrate the launch of tech entrepreneur Sean Parker’s Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy. Lady Gaga, John Legend and the Red Hot Chili Peppers performed, and inside the venue, a photographer captured a special moment between longtime friends Penn and Kelly, who were seated together.
In the pic, a suit-clad Penn, 55, smiles and poses with his arm around Kelly’s chair. The Friday Night Lights actress, 35, who looks gorgeous in a cleavage-baring strapless dress, leans in closely to her Oscar-winning seatmate.
This isn’t the first time the pals have dined together. Penn memorably joined Kelly and a couple of friends at her birthday dinner at Thomas Keller‘s luxe Napa restaurant The French Laundry in June 2015. A source told Us Weekly at the time that Penn picked up the tab for the “very pricey meal.” The insider added of their ambiguous relationship: “Minka and Sean got along great and had a great time, but it’s unclear where it’s going.”
The timing was less than ideal for the Milk actor, who had just split from Charlize Theron after an intense year-and-a-half–long romance. Kelly subsequently took to her Twitter to deny that she and Penn were an item.
However, the two have remained close and even attended a birthday dinner for a pal in January. Joining the crew was ’90s hunk Ryan Phillippe and jewelry designer Anita Ko. A source told Us Weekly at the time that Kelly left the party on the early side. The same insider added that it seemed like Penn was fond of Kelly, but she wasn’t feeling him as much.
Other stars to support Parker’s launch on Wednesday night included Penn’s daughter, Dylan Penn, pop superstar Katy Perry, her pal Allison Williams, Orlando Bloom, Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson, Emilia Clarke and others.
“This is the culmination of three years of work and negotiating with the six centers to try and get them on board,” Parker told Us Weekly and other reporters at the event. “It’s incredibly gratifying, but in some ways the work begins tonight. This is the start. And hopefully 20 years from now we’re going to look back and cancer isn’t going to be this scary thing; it isn’t going to be a death sentence. We need to still get immunotherapy working against these common epithelial cancers like pancreatic cancer or rectal cancer or so forth. We’re not there yet, but hopefully we’ll be there.”