Sean Penn sat grim-faced at Hugo Chavez’s funeral Friday — one of a clutch of Hollywood stars who lionized the late Venezuelan leader, in defiance of America’s fierce antipathy to his regime. Following a long tradition of Hollywood liberals, Penn was joined by Oliver Stone, Danny Glover and documentary maker Michael Moore in lauding the charismatic Venezuelan president after his death this week. Only Penn appears to have made the trip to Caracas for the lavish funeral of Chavez — who died aged 58 on Tuesday after a long battle with cancer — but the others made their feelings quite clear. JFK and Natural Born Killers director Stone, interviewed Chavez for a 2009 documentary South of the Border, called him a great hero to the majority of his people and those who struggle throughout the world. “Hated by the entrenched classes, Hugo Chavez will live forever in history,” he added in a statement released after his death, adding: “My friend, rest finally in a peace long earned.” Glover, a long-time Afro-American activist and star of the Lethal Weapons films, praised Hugo Chavez as a social champion, in a full-page statement issued by his publicist. “I join with millions of Venezuelans, Latin Americans, Caribbeans (and) freedom-loving people around the world who embraced (him) as a social champion of people-centered democracy,” he said. Penn, wearing a black suit and tie, did not comment publicly at Friday’s funeral, where he sat among the crowd of foreign dignitaries paying tribute to the leftist firebrand leader. But in a statement after Chavez’s death he said: “The people of the United States lost a friend it never knew it had. And poor people around the world lost a champion. I lost a friend I was blessed to have.” Their support for Chavez fits into a tradition of actors-turned-activists stretching back to Charlie Chaplin accused of communist sympathies, Jane Fonda in Vietnam, and up to George Clooney, arrested over Sudan last year. Fonda was dubbed Hanoi Jane when she visited north Vietnam during the war there and accused of being anti-American. Such outspoken political activism is not without its career or commercial risks for the actors or filmmakers involved — especially when it runs counter to US interests. Americans in general want their stars to speak out praising what is right with America,” said Steven Ross, a University of Southern California professor and expert on Hollywood’s links with politics.