Celebrity involvement in politics and war can range from well-meaning but largely ineffectual, to the downright embarrassing. Some high profile campaigners include UN ambassador Angelina Jolie and Times Up advocate Natalie Portman. This year Sean Penn has been in the spotlight for his involvement in Ukraine.
Penn had been filming a documentary in Ukraine for a few months before Russia invaded, and was advised by American officials to get out of the country. He has remained undeterred, and returned several times, meeting President Zelensky more than once. A statement made by the Ukrainian government in February 2022, said; “The director [Penn] specially came to Kyiv to record all the events that are currently happening in Ukraine and to tell the world the truth about Russia’s invasion of our country. Sean Penn is among those who support Ukraine in Ukraine today. Our country is grateful to him for such a show of courage and honesty.”
The statement, provided to Newsweek through the Ukrainian Embassy, added that Penn is “demonstrating bravery that many others have been lacking, in particular some Western politicians. The more people like that — true friends of Ukraine, who support the fight for freedom — the quicker we can stop this heinous invasion by Russia.”
In a new statement made on President Zelensky’s Instagram, he said; “American actor and film director Sean Penn is visiting Ukraine for the third time during the full-scale war. This time our meeting was special. Sean brought his Oscar statuette as a symbol of faith in the victory of our country. She will be in Ukraine until the end of the war. It was with great pleasure that he presented Sean Penn with the Order of Merit, III degree. Thank you for such sincere support and significant contribution to the popularization of Ukraine in the world!”
Penn has won the Oscar for Best Actor twice – in 2004 for Mystic River and 2009 for Milk. It’s unclear which Oscar he gave Zelensky. In a video, Penn says to Zelensky; “I feel terrible. This is for you. It’s just a symbolic silly thing, but if I know this is here with you then I’ll feel better and stronger for the fight.” He added: “When you win [the war], bring it back to Malibu. I’ll feel much better knowing a piece of me is here.”
Check out our guide to the best war movies.