Penn gave one of his Oscar statuettes to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during his visit to the country in 2022
When Sean Penn gave one of his Oscar statuettes to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during his visit to the country in 2022, he had an idea: that the award be "melted down to bullets" and used to fend off Russia's invasion.
Speaking to Variety, 63-year-old Penn explained his thinking behind giving one of his Oscars to Zelenskyy last year, in the wake of the Academy’s decision not to let Zelenskyy speak at the 2022 ceremony.
Though the Academy turned down Zelenskyy for its ceremony that year, the event would ultimately be marked by Will Smith's heated exchange with Chris Rock, in which he smacked the comedian onstage before winning Best Actor for his performance in King Richard.
“The Oscars producer thought, ‘Oh, he’s not light-hearted enough.’ Well, guess what you got instead? Will Smith?" Penn told Variety.
The moment, Penn said, led him to ultimately give one his own Oscars up — and who better to give it to, he thought, than the face of Ukrainian independence. “I thought, well, f---, you know? I’ll give them to Ukraine. They can be melted down to bullets they can shoot at the Russians."
Penn has earned two Oscars in his career, both in the best actor category — one in 2004 for Mystic River and another in 2009 for Milk.
In a video posted to Instagram by Zelenskyy, 45, in November 2022, the two-time Academy Award winner can be seen handing the Oscar to the Ukrainian leader during their meeting at the country's capital, Kyiv.
"It's just a symbolic silly thing, but if I know this is here with you, then I'll feel better and strong enough for the fights," Penn told Zelenskyy in the clip. "When you win, bring it back to Malibu because I'll feel much better knowing there's a piece of me here."
Zelenskyy noted in the Instagram caption that Penn "came to Ukraine for the third time during the full-scale war already."
"This time our meeting was special," he wrote. "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."
To show the country's appreciation of Penn's gesture, Zelenskyy gifted the actor with the Order of Merit of the III degree for his "sincere support and significant contribution to the popularization of Ukraine in the world!"
In a new interview with PEOPLE, Penn elaborates on the situation in Ukraine, where countless civilians have died since Russia invaded in February 2022.
"If we don't have a free and sovereign Ukraine, a lot of people will soon be protesting on behalf of starving North Africans in a few years," Penn says. "This war will affect the kitchen table."
But for now, Penn acknowledges, the Ukraine war isn't at the forefront of American minds.
"Every American should be looking into their heart saying, how can I show solidarity with these people? Because look, they're almost two years in, and it's f---ing hell," he tells PEOPLE.
Penn continues: "We will really be proud of ourselves if we get in on this thing and we'll be on the right side of history."
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Penn will soon be releasing a documentary on the war, titled SUPERPOWER, about “Ukraine’s fight to maintain freedom from Russia,” according to a press release for the film.
The documentary — which was presented at the Berlin International Film Festival — started in 2021 as a deep dive into Ukrainian President Zelenskyy’s rise from an actor to political figure, but evolved after the Russian bombings in the Ukraine capital of Kyiv.
SUPERPOWER premieres Sept. 18 on Paramount+.
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Read the original article on People.