Zelenskyy Didn't Speak at Oscars, So Sean Penn May Publicly Destroy His Awards

"He did not watch the Oscars," a representative for Penn tells CNET.

Gael Cooper
CNET editor Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." She's been a journalist since 1989, working at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, Twin Cities Sidewalk, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and NBC News Digital. She's Gen X in birthdate, word and deed. If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
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Gael Cooper
3 min read

Actor Sean Penn speaks to the press after signing a humanitarian contract in Krakow, Poland, on March 23.

Omar Marques/Getty Images

Sean Penn's two Oscar statuettes might not be long for this world. On Saturday, Penn told CNN he'd publicly destroy the Oscars he's won if the academy didn't ask Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to speak virtually during the event. While the Academy didn't respond to a request for comment about whether Zelenskyy had been invited to participate, the Ukrainian president didn't speak during Sunday's ceremony. And Penn himself was not watching the event.

A representative for Penn said the actor was in Lviv, Ukraine on Sunday strategizing with local governance to scale up CORE's in-country programs. CORE, or Community Organized Relief Effort, is the nonprofit group Penn co-founded in 2010.

"He did not watch the Oscars," the representative told me in an email.

On Monday, Penn posted to Twitter and Instagram that he had a "good meeting" with Lviv Gov. Maksym Kozytskyy and encouraged interested readers to donate to CORE and follow the group's work on its website.

It seems unlikely that the fate of Penn's Oscars are top of his mind at the moment. And he did say he would take the action after he returned to the US, which hasn't yet happened.

But on Saturday, he was crystal clear about the statues' future.

When asked about the Oscars, Penn said there is "nothing greater that 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.

CORE'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." Penn is also filming a documentary about the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

Penn met with Zelenskyy in February both before and during the Russian invasion and praised the Ukrainian president as "an incredibly moving human being."

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."

Before the Academy Awards aired, 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. 

Zelenskyy's possible appearance was not mentioned at the ceremony, although numerous attendees did express support for Ukraine. The Ukrainian president's non-appearance might have made bigger headlines were it not for a confrontation between actors Will Smith and Chris Rock. Smith strode on stage and slapped Rock in the face after the comedian made a joke about Smith's wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.

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