Sean Penn isn’t nominated for an Academy Award this year, but the actor’s making news related to Sunday’s ceremony anyway. On Saturday, Penn told CNN that he will publicly destroy the Oscar statuettes he’s won if the academy doesn’t ask Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to speak virtually during the event.
“There is nothing greater than the Academy Awards could do than to give [Zelenskyy] an opportunity to talk to all of us,” Penn told CNN anchor Jim Acosta in an interview from Poland. “It is my understanding that a decision has been made not to do it.”
Penn met with Zelenskyy in February both before and during the Russian invasion and praised the Ukrainian president as “an incredibly moving human being.” When asked about the Oscars, Penn said that there is “nothing greater than the Academy Awards could do” than give Zelenskyy a chance to address the ceremony’s audience. He noted that he wasn’t saying Zelenskyy had asked for the opportunity.
“If the Academy has 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,” Penn said.
“And I myself, If it comes back to it, when I return, I will smelt [my Oscars] in public,” Penn said. “I pray that’s not what’s happened. … And I hope that [everyone at the Oscars] walks out if it is [true].”
Penn has won two best actor Academy Awards, one for 2003’s Mystic River and one for 2008’s Milk. Penn is the co-founder of the non-profit group CORE or Community Organized Relief Effort. The group’s website says, “CORE is on the ground in Poland and Romania supporting the immediate needs of people fleeing Ukraine in the wake of a massive humanitarian catastrophe.” He is also filming a documentary about the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
In February, Zelenskyy’s office released a statement praising Penn.
“Sean Penn is among those who support Ukraine in Ukraine today,” it said in part. “Our country is grateful to him for such a show of courage and honesty.” Amy Schumer, one of three Oscar hosts along with Regina Hall and Wanda Sykes, said on Drew Barrymore’s talk show that she had pitched the Academy on a Zelenskyy appearance. “I am not afraid to go there, but it’s not me producing the Oscars,” Schumer said.
The Academy didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment