In a move that could reverberate across Hollywood as the industry tries to regain some sense of normality, Sean Penn has refused to return to work on his latest series, Gaslit, until everyone on the production team has been vaccinated against Covid-19.
He has even offered to help the vaccination effort, free of charge, through his non-profit community relief organisation Core.
Core had already worked closely with Los Angeles city and state officials to make Covid-19 testing available early on in the pandemic, and then to help facilitate vaccinations when they became available. The result has been around 5.3 million tests and 1.7 million vaccines.
The highly contagious Delta variant is causing Covid-19 cases to surge in Los Angeles, with indoor mask wearing now mandatory again.
While Penn has already been fully vaccinated, he is a proponent of the belief that those who remain unvaccinated put everybody around them at risk, particularly on a film set, according to film news website Deadline.
The studio behind Gaslit, NBC Universal, had already mandated vaccines for those working in the production’s “Zone A” – cast and those who come into close proximity with the actors. An on-site clinic was made available on set to provide free Covid-19 vaccinations, with various vaccines on offer. However, this did not go far enough, in Penn’s view.
This is one of the first examples of a filmmaker or star directly challenging Hollywood to go further in protecting the crews working on set.
Gaslit focuses on the untold stories and forgotten characters of Watergate, with Penn playing attorney general John Mitchell, the most trusted adviser of then-president Richard Nixon. Julia Roberts also stars in the series.