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Sean Penn Gives His Oscar to Zelensky

Sean Penn gives his Oscar to Zelensky
Sean Penn gives his Oscar to Zelensky Credit: Ukrainian Presidential Press Office / Public Domain

Hollywood actor and director Sean Penn gave one of his Oscars statuettes to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during a visit to Kyiv.

On Tuesday, November 8th, the actor handed Zelensky one of the two Academy Awards for Best Actor trophies in 2004 and 2009 for Mystic River and Milk. It was an action that was evidently meant as a “symbol of faith” and a show of support in the country’s victory in the ongoing conflict with Russia.

“It’s just a symbolic, silly thing, but if I know this is here then I’ll feel better and strong enough for the fights,” the Hollywood star said. “When you win, bring it back to Malibu, because I’ll feel much better knowing there’s a piece of me here.”

A video on President Zelensky’s Telegram channel showed the 62-year-old actor seated beside the Ukrainian leader at a ceremonial table and pressing his hand on his arm to emphasize his words as aides smiled and laughed.

Penn presented with the III Degree Order of Merit

President Zelensky, in return, honored Penn with Ukraine’s Order of Merit III degree for strengthening relations, backing Ukraine’s territorial integrity, and helping to popularize the country. Moreover, in the words of the Ukrainian leader: “It’s not from me, it’s from Ukraine.”

Zelensky stated in a caption on an Instagram video that Penn “came to Ukraine for the third time during the full-scale war already.”

He went on to say, “This time our meeting was special,” adding that “Sean brought his Oscar statuette as a symbol of faith in the victory of our country. It will be in Ukraine until the end of the war.”

Banned from Russia

Known for his political activism and his films, Penn marked his third wartime visit to film a documentary about political unrest and the ongoing war, the first being in March.

A video he made from February 24th, the day of the Russian invasion, showed two men on their way to view a plaque bearing his signature that was in the paving stones of an “Alley of Courage” Zelensky inaugurated in August to honor friends of Ukraine.

For that reason, Russia sanctioned the well-known figure and permanently banned him from entering Russia. The reason was criticizing Russia’s war in Ukraine. The consequence, of course, was Kremlin officials adding him, as well as fellow actor Ben Stiller, to Russia’s “Stop List.”

Penn stated at that time, “[It is] already a brutal mistake of lives taken and hearts broken, and if he doesn’t relent, I believe [Russian President] Mr. [Vladimir] Putin will have made a most horrible mistake for all of humankind.”

“President [Volodymyr] Zelensky and the Ukrainian people have risen as historic symbols of courage and principle,” he added. “Ukraine is the tip of the spear for the democratic embrace of dreams.”

Later on, in his nightly video address, Zelensky, a former comedian and actor himself, said that ever since he had visited the Ukrainian capital on the day of the invasion, Penn had been “doing everything to help [Ukraine] gather international support.”

 Zelensky at the Oscars

Even though doing so would have violated a rule prohibiting award winners from selling or disposing of the physical prize, the actor had previously promised to “smelt” his Oscar if the Academy Award Committee did not invite Zelensky to appear at the 2022 Oscars.

In his words, “There is nothing greater that the Academy Awards could do than to give him that opportunity to talk to all of us. This is a man who understands movies and had his own very long and successful career in that.”

He further added “It is my understanding that a decision has been made not to do it. That is not me commenting on whether or not President Zelensky had wanted to.”

Penn also informed Zelensky during his trip that “there are three places in the world that all the pride of my life will be. The place where my daughter was born, the place where my son was born, and this.”

Talks of joining the Ukrainian forces

In April this year, the star admitted to Hollywood Authentic that he had considered joining Ukrainian forces to fight against Russia.

“If you’ve been in Ukraine [fighting] has to cross your mind,” he said and added that “you kind of think, what century is this? Because I was at the gas station in Brentwood the other day and I’m now thinking about taking up arms against Russia? What the f— is going on?”

Zelensky has applauded Penn for his efforts as well as those of other honorees, such as the Presidents of the European Commission, Latvia and Poland, the Prime Ministers of the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovenia, and Boris Johnson, the former British Prime Minister.

He said it was a sign of gratitude to prominent figures who defend the freedom of Ukrainians but also “a reminder to all future generations of our people that different people, forces and industries united for our victory.”

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