Pucker Up: Ukrainian Journalist Who Kissed Will Smith Lands in L.A.
Vitalii Sediuk, who also gave Madonna flowers she "loathed," wouldn't promise in writing not to sue Sony - and is shopping a short film.
This story first appeared in the Aug. 24 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
When Vitalii Sediuk (Віталій Седюк) gave Kylie Minogue a bottle of fresh goat’s milk, the поп-икон – or pop icon, if you prefer – was delighted, judging by a video of the encounter. But things didn’t go as well for the Ukrainian TV journalist when he handed Madonna a flower just before a press conference at the 2011 Venice Film Festival. She tucked it under the table and (in)famously whispered to a fellow actor, “I absolutely loathe hydrangeas.”
That turned into the whisper heard 'round the world. Somewhere in the publicists rulebook it should say, “Don’t insult a flower when cameras and microphones are around” -- which is pretty much all the time when you’re Madonna. The floral faux pas was caught on tape and the video went viral, triggering a pollen-storm of criticism and prompting the star to issue a mock apology to . . the journalist? No, to hydrangeas!
And a wilted apology it was: The pseudo-contrite video ends with Madonna stomping the hapless blossoms and declaring that, “f--- you,” she still prefers roses. Call it crush porn for the garden set.
Six months later, the lanky 23-year old journalist ignited another tempest when he attempted to kiss Will Smith at the Russian premiere of Men in Black III. The star didn’t take it well, backhanding Sediuk and commenting seconds later that “he’s lucky I didn't sucker punch him.” Smith subsequently told David Letterman that the situation was “just awkward,” then added a bit more masculinity-preserving bluster.
For Sediuk, the red carpet fracas wasn’t quite as awkward. “I don’t give a damn, I do what I do,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “You have to know how to entertain.”
Did he rue the brief red carpet bromance? Yes and no.
“My rule for life is never regret,” he said, “but I always try to find something to learn.” In this case, he said, his mistake was simple: “too much love.”
Smith would probably agree.
Sediuk explained that a three cheek kiss is a traditional greeting in the Ukraine, and that only Smith’s reaction -- jerking away -- made it look like Sediuk was going for a buss on the lips. But he acknowledged that he understood that the attempted smooch “was provocative.”
In any case, on his way out of town after the premiere, Sediuk was met at the Moscow train station by a crowd of paparazzi and by Sony representatives demanding he write a letter absolving Smith of liability. Sediuk demurred -- proving that he’d already learned something useful, which is don’t sign anything you don’t have to -- but also said he had no intention of suing.
Good thing, because what he really wants to do is direct.
Yes, direct. And write and act.
In fact, he’s already done all three, and produced too. About a month ago, Sediuk completed a 20-minute short loosely inspired by the Madonna incident. Titled The Hydrangea (view trailer), it's a low-key look at what happens to a fan’s life when a pop singer named Tefaya improbably plays a concert at a Ukrainian village. The high production values belie the $5,000 cash budget. The fan, of course, is played by Sediuk, but the film is a much more a slice of life in a small village than a puff of pop iconism.
Of course, when it comes to filmmaking, the entire Ukrainian nation is like a small village compared to Hollywood, the world capital of pop-foolery. That might suggest that Sediuk should keep his day job, with the 1+1 channel.
Sediuk now does just four or five reports a month for 1+1, rather than appearing two or three times a day on the network’s morning show and primetime news. He intends to spend the rest of his time working on his film career, doing all the usual things: reading, writing, taking acting classes, networking -- which is easier now that he has moved to Los Angeles.
And just in case he runs into Will Smith, the star likely has nothing to worry about. Sediuk already has publicly apologized and tells THR that he would apologize in person too, in the unlikely event they were to meet.
Or maybe not so unlikely. Here are the goals Sediuk has set for himself: Pass a driving test, get a SAG-AFTRA card, and – one day – direct a movie starring Will Smith.