Speaking to CNN’s Jim Acosta on Sunday, Penn, who was in Warsaw, highlighted “two immediate crises” in light of the current conflict in the region after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “One is the refugee crisis of those coming into Poland and other border nations, and this horror that is going on in Ukraine,” Penn said.
When asked if he believed Zelenskyy should speak during the ceremony, the actor showed his support. He said he believed Zelenskyy “has been made not to do it” by the Academy.
“There are those who say that politics is for another place, entertainment for another,” he said, then argued that the Ukrainian president’s “poetic courage” should be recognised during the event.
“There is nothing greater than the Academy Awards could do than to give [Zelenskyy] that opportunity to talk to all of us.”
“If the Academy has elected not to do it … then I think every single one of those people and every bit of that decision will be the most obscene moment in all of Hollywood history,” he said.
The Academy has not confirmed whether Zelenskyy will participate or not.
See the latest images from Ukraine below:
Penn went further, encouraging other actors and people in the industry to put pressure on the Academy or else shun the Oscars ceremony altogether if Zelenskyy cannot make an appearance. “It is their moment to shine and protest and boycott that Academy Awards, and I myself, when I return, I will smelt mine in public,” he said.
“I pray that’s not what’s happened. I pray there have not been arrogant people, who consider themselves representatives of the greater good in my industry, that have [decided against checking] with leadership in Ukraine. So I’m just going to hope that that’s not what’s happened. I hope [everyone who attends] walks out if it is,” he continued.
In recent weeks, Penn, who has won two Academy Awards for Best Actor, in 2003 and 2008, visited Ukraine to film a documentary on the Russian invasion. He is in Poland with his non-profit organisation Core to provide humanitarian relief to those fleeing the war.
Penn is not alone in advocating for Zelenskyy’s appearance, with Amy Schumer, one of this year’s Oscars hosts, calling for his participation last week.
The Academy has not commented on Penn’s remarks or Zelenskyy’s appearance.