Sean Penn has been one of Hollywood’s most vocal supporters of Ukraine. When Russia began its invasion of the European nation, the two-time Oscar winner was on the ground in Ukraine filming a documentary about the war. Penn also advocated for the Academy to invite Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to speak at the Oscars, famously declaring that he would publicly “smelt” his two Oscars if Zelensky was not invited. (The public smelting never happened, leading observers to believe Penn’s Oscars remain intact, though it isn’t clear if Zelensky was ever invited.)
Penn eventually left Ukraine for safety reasons, but in a new interview with Hollywood Authentic, the actor said he almost stayed and joined the fight himself.
“The only possible reason for me staying in Ukraine longer last time would’ve been for me to be holding a rifle,” Penn said. “Probably without body armor, because as a foreigner, you would want to give that body armor to one of the civilian fighters who doesn’t have it or to a fighter with more skills than I have, or to a younger man or woman who could fight for longer or whatever. So, where I am in life is short of doing that, but if you’ve been in Ukraine [fighting] has to cross your mind. And you kind of think what century is this?”
Penn acknowledged the irony of how quickly he went from his luxurious Hollywood lifestyle to almost joining an armed resistance.
“I was at the gas station in Brentwood the other day and I’m now thinking about taking up arms against Russia?,” he said. “What the fuck is going on?”
Penn added that he plans to return to Ukraine to finish his documentary, but only when the war has calmed down to the point where he can do it in a way that is safe for him and will not be an unnecessary distraction to the Ukrainian government.
“My intention is to go back into Ukraine,” he said. “But I’m not an idiot, I am not certain what I can offer. I don’t spend a lot of time texting the president or his staff while they’re under siege and their people are being murdered.”