Back from the Cannes Film Festival where he launched his new directorial effort “Flag Day,” Sean Penn has made a bold move on the set of his latest project. The two-time Academy Award-winning actor has refused to return to working on the UCP-produced Starz limited series “Gaslit” until all cast and crew involved on the production are vaccinated. Penn’s move on the series, which shows the Watergate scandal from previously unseen perspectives and also stars Julia Roberts and Dan Stevens, is an effort to challenge Hollywood to demand Covid vaccine requirements for film and TV sets. (Deadline first reported the news.)
Through his organization CORE (Community Organized Relief Effort), which launched in response to the Haiti earthquake of January 2010, Penn is offering to organize vaccines for cast and crew free of charge. The news comes as the Delta variant has caused a spike in Covid cases around the country — in Los Angeles, it accounts for the majority of cases. On July 22, LA County reported 2,767 cases, and the city is meanwhile reinstating indoor mask-wearing rules.
According to Deadline, “‘Gaslight’s’ studio, NBCUniversal, this week mandated mandatory vaccinations in ‘Zone A,’ which constitutes the cast and those who come in close proximity. An email was sent out to cast and crew Wednesday informing that an on-site clinic was made available to provide free Covid vaccinations, done by the same vendor offering vaccinations to NBCUniversal and production crews on the upper lot. The memo said several vaccine choices are available, and the vendor will be back in 21 days to administer a second dose, if necessary. The memo also asked members of the production to present evidence of vaccination to the Covid testing team when they show up for their next shift on the production.”
While Zone A is the most restrictive work area on a film or TV set, Penn wants to expand required vaccinations to zones B and C. Presently, vaccines are only mandatory for Zone A.
Reportedly Penn only has a couple more weeks of shooting before the series wraps. Production on “Gaslit,” which is directed by Matt Ross and based on the podcast “Slow Burn,” is mostly taking place indoors in Burbank. In the series, Penn plays Richard Nixon’s attorney general John Mitchell, with Julia Roberts co-starring as his wife Martha. Ross, Sam Esmail, and Robbie Pickering are executive producers, with Pickering serving as showrunner.