The Moulin Rouge star's career took off after he appeared opposite Penn and Michael J. Fox in the 1989 film, but he didn't have a great time on location in Thailand.
He explains, "I was a Latin guy and everybody would tell me to stay out of the sun so I could pass... for white... and I audition for this movie and I got the part of Corporal Murphy and then we get to Thailand and I go, 'Ok, shoot, there's a lot of sun; I forgot to put sunscreen on and I get really dark,' and they demote me - to Corporal Diaz... I was mad dark."
And after accepting his lesser role in the movie, Leguizamo then had to let method actor Penn repeatedly slap him during a confrontation scene.
He adds, "Sean Penn is a sergeant and we kidnap this Vietnamese girl and we gotta gang rape her and my character refuses and Sean's gotta slap me into submission, and of course, Sean doesn't believe in stage combat because he's too method for that s**t, so he's slapping me for real.
"We're on the 13th take and my face (is) out to here and you can't even understand the dialogue I'm saying and (director) Brian de Palma's going, 'We have to do it one more time, John, it was out of focus.' So it's 'whack' and 'whack' and I'm about to quit and then they cut the scene out of the movie."
Leguizamo admits the scene has scarred him for life: "I twitch every time he (Penn) comes near me."