While these latest comments from the Oscar-winning actor are part of a recent interview with the newly launched Hollywood Authentic, Penn was previously reported to have been working on a Ukraine-focused documentary with VICE Studios.
Asked in the new HA piece about returning to Ukraine, Penn—who’s made headlines in the past in connection with similar projects and is the co-founder of the Community Organized Relief Effort (CORE) nonprofit—said his intention is to indeed return to the country. Penn, however, added that he’s “not an idiot” and is not certain what, exactly, he could offer amid the ongoing invasion.
“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. I’d probably send one message through the chief of staff,” Penn said.
The aforementioned documentary will see a “last-minute assessment” from Penn, who said that (at the time of the interview) additional shooting was on the agenda. But documentaries, in general, don’t boast “any tangible evidence” of possessing the power to “really” inspire change. “We only know they can give hope,” he said.
Toward the end of the interview, Penn reflected on his thoughts about “taking up arms” and how one can be simultaneously “fascinated by conflict” but decidedly against war in the intellectual sense. From Penn’s perspective, the “only possible reason” to have stayed any longer in Ukraine during his most recent visit would have been for him to have been standing alongside civilian fighters.
“So, where I am in life is short of doing that, but if you’ve been in Ukraine [fighting] has to cross your mind,” he said. “And you kind of think what century is this? Because 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?”
In March, Penn appeared on CNN, notably vowing to “smelt” his two Oscar trophies (for Mystic River and Milk) in public if this year’s ceremony did not feature Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. While Zelensky ultimately did not appear during the eventful broadcast, viewers were met with a moment of silence in support of Ukraine, as well as a special message inviting those who can to get involved by way of donations.