Every now and again, comes a celebrity cover story that lifts the veil ever so slightly to reveal that—surprise!—a Hollywood elite really is just like us. Or—blessedly—they’re not. Such is the case for a new Variety profile wherein global humanitarian Sean Penn not only lifts the veil but stomps on it, sets it ablaze, then hurls its charred remains into the ocean only to fish it back out again because, you know, pollution.
The interview boasts as many twists and turns as O. Henry and partly takes place across Penn’s coffee table which the writer notes is curiously littered with sunglasses, prescription bottles, and some sort of device that shoots salt at mosquitoes. The actor takes aim at everyone—from Will Smith to al-Qaeda to AI—at seemingly every possible opportunity throughout the conversation.
First, Penn notes the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’s refusal to allow the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, to speak at the 2022 Oscars, weeks after Ukraine was invaded by Russia. “The Oscars producer thought, ‘Oh, he’s not light-hearted enough.’ Well, guess what you got instead? Will Smith!” The author observes that Penn’s face immediately reddened at the subject and one of his neck veins “tightens like a rope pulled taut.”
Smith is “nice,” Penn said, noting that he’s only met him one time but still proceeds to light up an American Spirit and drag him to hell for slapping Chris Rock. “So why the fuck did you just spit on yourself and everybody else with this stupid fucking thing? Why did I go to fucking jail for what you just did? And you’re still sitting there?” Penn rambles. “Why are you guys standing and applauding his worst moment as a person?”
Apparently, of all of the depravity happening in Hollywood, Penn is still ranting and raving about the fact that his pal Zelenskyy couldn’t pander to a room full of millionaires.
“This fucking bullshit wouldn’t have happened with Zelenskyy,” Penn insisted. “Will Smith would never have left that chair to be part of stupid violence. It never would have happened.” Somehow, Penn’s rage on the matter becomes more ridiculous.
The slap made him consider his Oscar trophies, he told Variety: “I thought, well, fuck, you know? I’ll give them to Ukraine. They can be melted down to bullets they can shoot at the Russians.” Now I know I’m no expert here, but how many bullets can be produced from two trophies???
Then, the conversation naturally turns to 9/11. If Penn were president, he hypothesized, the United States’ response would’ve been different. If that sounds like a vaguely normal statement, just you wait: “I’d have let White House counsel know that they are on vacation,” Penn began. “I’m not consulting with them. If I have to go to prison, I’ll go, but I’m going to kill them. I’m killing everyone that did this. But only them. And we know where the fuck they are.” This folks, is precisely why a Leo (Penn’s birthday is August 17) should never be put in charge of a country.
And to be sure he hit all the hot buttons, Penn also shared his thoughts on AI use in Hollywood and the best way to level with studio executives. His plan, as he lays out to Variety, begins by entering a boardroom of studio heads with a camera crew in tow.
“So you want my scans and voice data and all that,” Penn imagines saying. “OK, here’s what I think is fair: I want your daughter’s, because I want to create a virtual replica of her and invite my friends over to do whatever we want in a virtual party right now. Would you please look at the camera and tell me you think that’s cool?” Are you reading this, WGA and SAG-AFTRA??? Give that a go for the next bargaining sesh!
Penn softens significantly when asked about his bond with Zelenskyy though. Apparently, the two met in February 2022, just as Russian troops invaded Ukraine. At the time, the writer notes, Zelenskyy’s country was newly “on the precipice of annexation.” Even still, he took a meeting from his bunker with none other than Penn, who was there filming a documentary.
“It blew my mind he kept the meeting,” Penn recalled, specifically mentioning Zelenskyy’s demeanor as the ongoing horrors in Ukraine began. “His brain is fully oxygenated. His eyes are clear and he’s warm. I knew I’m either going to feel nothing or I’m going to let myself love him.” OK!
Ultimately, Penn has decided not to melt his Academy Awards. Instead, he bestowed one upon Zelenskyy. “I told him to keep it and bring it to Malibu after all this is over and his country is safe.” Who doesn’t love a happy Hollywood ending!?