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Sean Penn says he will “smelt” his Oscar and is encouraging a boycott of the 2022 Academy Awards if Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky wasn’t invited to appear virtually during the 94th annual ceremony Sunday night.
In an interview with CNN’s Jim Acosta on Saturday, Penn — currently in Poland with his nonprofit CORE providing humanitarian relief — said that if the Academy has elected not to include the Ukrainian leader, who is in the midst of leading the country’s war effort against Russia, “that decision will have been the most obscene moment in all of Hollywood history.”
Penn began his answer to Acosta by acknowledging those “who would say that politics are for another place, entertainment is for another,” with the actor saying this is a position that “sometimes has validity.” But for Penn, who confirmed he’d met yet again with Zelensky since returning to the region, the country’s president embodies “that kind of nature of poetic courage and expression that film aspires at its best to be.”
“There is nothing greater that the Academy Awards could do than to give him that opportunity to talk to all of us,” Penn said. “By the way, this is a man who understands movies and had his own very long and successful career in that.”
The Flag Day director and actor went on to deny that he’s commenting on “whether or not President Zelensky had wanted to” participate in the ceremony, but said that as he understands it, the decision about whether to include Ukraine’s president as part of the telecast “has been made not to do it.”
“If the Academy has elected not to do it, if presenters have elected not to pursue the leadership in Ukraine who are taking bullets and bombs for us, along with the Ukrainian children that they are trying to protect, then I think every single one of those people and every bit of that decision will have been the most obscene moment in all of Hollywood history,” the actor said.
While Penn said he hopes “that’s not what’s happening,” if Zelensky was passed on for an appearance at the ceremony, he urges attendees to boycott the show and promised to destroy his own Oscars, which he won as best actor for 2003’s Mystic River and 2008’s Milk.
“If it turns out to be what’s happening, I would encourage everyone involved to know that, though it may be their moment — and I understand that — to celebrate their films, it is so much more importantly their moment to shine and to protest and to boycott that Academy Awards,” he told CNN. “I myself, if it comes back to it, when I return, I will smelt mine in public.”
“I pray that’s not what’s happened,” Penn added. “I pray there have not been arrogant people who consider themselves representatives of the greater good in my industry that have not decided to check in with leadership in Ukraine. I’m just gonna hope that that’s not what’s happened, and I hope that everybody walks out, if it is.”
Zelensky’s potential participation in this year’s Oscars, which are being held at the Dolby Theatre in L.A. and airing on ABC on Sunday night, has not been publicly confirmed or denied by the Academy. However, Amy Schumer, who is one of three hosts for the 94th annual Academy Awards, expressed in a March 24 appearance on the Drew Barrymore Show that she had pitched his involvement.
“There are so many awful things happening that it seems hard to focus on which one,” Schumer said. “I actually pitched — I wanted to find a way to have Zelensky satellite in or make a tape or something, just because there are so many eyes on the Oscars. I am not afraid to go there, but it’s not me producing the Oscars.”
A representative for the Academy did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Penn’s remarks or whether Zelensky has been invited to appear.
March 27, 9:24 a.m.: Updated with Mystic River credit and Oscar win.
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