Sean Penn considered joining Ukraine’s resistance against Russia.
“I was at the gas station in Brentwood the other day and I’m now thinking about taking up arms against Russia? What the fuck is going on?” he told the inaugural edition of new quarterly magazine Hollywood Authentic.
Penn, who was in Ukraine filming a documentary about the country when Russia invaded, said he originally met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Zoom two years ago, “early on in the pandemic.”
“We first started discussing a potential documentary about his country that wasn’t focused particularly on the war,” Penn said. “And since then there’s been a lot of exchanges between us. Then I went and met him face to face the day before the invasion. And I was with him during the invasion, on day one.”
Penn even contemplated fighting himself. “The only possible reason for me staying in Ukraine longer last time would’ve been for me to be holding a rifle, probably without body armour, because as a foreigner, you would want to give that body armour to one of the civilian fighters who doesn’t have it or to a fighter with more skills than I have, or to a younger man or woman who could fight for longer or whatever. So, where I am in life is short of doing that, but if you’ve been in Ukraine [fighting] has to cross your mind. And you kind of think what century is this?”
Penn, who returned to the U.S. at the beginning of March, also revealed he plans to return to the war-torn country. “My intention is to go back into Ukraine,” he said. “But I’m not an idiot, I am not certain what I can offer. I don’t spend a lot of time texting the president or his staff while they’re under siege and their people are being murdered.”
Penn’s nonprofit CORE (Community Organized Relief Effort), which he founded while volunteering in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake, is currently offering support to Ukrainian refugees in Poland. Although the organization is now run by co-founder and CEO Ann Lee, the actor said he plans to “get hands-on” with it when he goes back to Poland or if it expands operations to Ukraine itself.
“I’ve got plenty to do with CORE on the receiving side of refugees in Poland,” he said. “I’m shooting more for the documentary, but I’ll be doing a last-minute assessment of what value that will have. People will argue this, and there’s a million debates that I understand, but long term, we don’t have any tangible evidence that documentaries really change anything. We just don’t. We only know they can give hope.”