Sean Penn is a Hollywood renegade, known for his crazy behavior and outspoken politics as much as his hit movies. So when Russia invaded Ukraine earlier this year, Penn tried to get involved. Amid the war, Penn remained in Kyiv shooting a documentary and was permanently banned from Russia. And now, he’s given — er, lent — the Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky one of his Oscar statuettes.
When Russia invaded Ukraine in February of 2022, Sean Penn began filming a documentary about the conflict — on location. And while attempting the dangerous mission, he made his thoughts on the matter very clear: “President Zelensky and the Ukrainian people have risen as historic symbols of courage and principle. Ukraine is the tip of the spear for the democratic embrace of dreams. If we allow it to fight alone, our soul as America is lost,” Penn said at the time.
Russia eventually placed sanctions on Penn, banning him for life over his comments. Later, while attempting to leave Ukraine, Penn and his team had to abandon their car and walk with their bags for miles to the Polish border.
But Penn’s involvement with the effort did not end there.
Returning to Kyiv, Penn met with Zelensky on November 8 and gave him one of his Oscars. Penn has won two Academy Awards for Best Actor, one for Mystic River in 2004 and one for Milk in 2009. As of now, it’s unclear which of the trophies is in Zelensky’s possession.
Sean Penn Hands His Oscar to Pres. Zelensky
“This is for you. It’s just a symbolic silly thing,” Penn said, adding, “When you win, bring it back to Malibu.” This insinuates that the Oscar is simply on loan — though it was likely meant as an inspiring comment. (It seems unlikely that Zelensky would sell the Oscar, though it could go for millions of dollars.) Zelensky, too, is an actor. The politician gained famed playing the Ukrainian president on the TV’s Servant of the People before he was elected to office, and so the gesture carries a special weight.
In turn, Zelensky also awarded Penn with his own award: the Ukrainian Order of Merit.
Honestly, in 2022, headlines like “Sean Penn Gives His Oscar to Volodymyr Zelensky” are not even surprising. Anything goes. Still, it was an interesting moment shared between two of the world’s most famous men.