Although he’s returned to California after filming in war-torn Ukraine, actor Sean Penn revealed that he’s thought about ‘taking up arms against Russia,’ saying that ‘if you’ve been to Ukraine, [fighting] you have to cross your mind.’
The filmmaker spent the past several months in Ukraine filming a VICE documentary following President Volodymyr Zelensky and the country’s military forces.
Penn, 61, told Hollywood Authentic in an April 9 interview that his ‘intention is to go back to Ukraine,’ although he is ‘not certain what [he] can offer.’
‘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 armor, because as a foreigner, you would want to give that body armor 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,’ Penn told the outlet.
‘So, where I am in life is short of doing that, but if you’ve been in Ukraine [fighting] you have to cross your mind. 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 f— is going on?’
Sean Penn, 61, told Hollywood Authentic that he found himself ‘thinking about taking up arms against Russia’ while at the gas station in Brentwood, California shortly after he returned from the war-torn country
Penn, left, is pictured with Ukrainian President Volodmyr Zelensky. Penn, who was with Zelensky when Russia first invaded Ukraine, credited the president for uniting the country
Penn is pictured at a press conference in Rzeszow, Poland last month announcing a partnership between the city and his nonprofit, CORE, to help Ukrainian refugees fleeing there. However, the Oscar-winning activist said that when he returns to Ukraine, he may ‘send one message through the chief of staff’ to see how else he can help
Mourners are pictured gathering on April 12 around the coffin of Ukrainian serviceman Roman Tiaka, 47, who was killed during Russia’s invasion. Penn described the ‘rite of passage’ of covering war zones where you ask yourself ‘how would I react?’
The director plans to continue filming the ongoing conflict for his documentary. In the interview, however, Penn questioned whether there is ‘tangible evidence that documentaries really change anything.’
‘We only know that we can give hope,’ he said.
The activist and Oscar-winning director, who was physically involved in rescuing people after Hurricane Katrina and conducted a secret interview with Sinaloa cartel boss El Chapo in 2016, told the outlet that ‘statistically, I’ve never really taken any risks at all. ‘
‘And that includes 2003 Baghdad, when I was on my own outside the Green Zone… you probably had a one in 100 chance of getting killed.’
Typically, Penn said, he’s never been ‘a conflict zone journalist who stays months or years in a place that’s really sketchy, and never someone who had no choice but to be there and live there.’
He told the outlet that it’s possible to be simultaneously ‘fascinated by conflict’ and ‘intellectually very anti-war.’
‘There’s a rite of passage while you are in or near it that you have to do with some basic questions you ask yourself: how would I react? Could I keep enough oxygen in my brain to make clear judgements? Are you going to be damaged by being in a war, emotionally or psychologically?’
‘I think that there is a certain part of my own pursuits that is influenced by those questions that on some level demand answering. And so, yeah, I think it would be just not honest if I said that wasn’t part of it.’
Penn first arrived in the capital city of Kyiv when Russia first invaded Ukraine in February – Zelensky even announced the director’s presence on his official Facebook page.
Penn is pictured at a Presidential Office press briefing in Ukraine on February 24. The actor said that he saw a change in Ukraine’s leader after Russia first invaded: ‘it struck me that I was now looking at a guy who knows that he had to rise to the ultimate level of human courage and leadership’
Penn told the outlet that ‘if you’ve been to Ukraine, [fighting] you have to cross your mind.’ Field engineers in Ukraine are pictured next to destroyed armored vehicles on a street in the town of Bucha on April 5
‘American actor and film director, Oscar winner Sean Penn arrived in Ukraine,’ read the post. ‘The director came to Kyiv specifically to record all the events taking place in Ukraine as a documentary filmmaker and to tell the world the truth about Russia’s invasion of our country.’
Penn credited Zelensky with uniting the country of Ukraine in the face of disaster.
‘They are together like never before and, as I said, that the historical legacy of Zelensky, because he’s the man who did it.’
‘They’ll never be able to take it away from him that he unified the Ukrainians to fight for their country.’
Penn first met the Ukrainian president before the conflict, recalling him as ‘very charming, and very bright and very charismatic.’ When the Russian onslaught began, Penn said, he saw a shift in Zelensky.
Penn, right, is pictured visiting positions of the Ukrainian Armed Forces near the frontline with Russian-backed separatists in Donetsk region, Ukraine
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (C) walking in the street in the recaptured by the Ukrainian army Bucha city of Kyiv on April 4. Penn said that Zelensky’s ‘historical legacy’ will be bringing Ukraine together ‘like never before’
‘Seeing Zelensky a day before the invasion, I would say, it serves a reason that he would not have felt fully tested. And then seeing him the next day, it struck me that I was now looking at a guy who knew that he had to rise to the ultimate level of human courage and leadership. I think he found out he was born to do that.’
Currently, Penn’s nonprofit CORE (Community Organized Relief Effort), which was founded in 2010 to help earthquake victims in Haiti, is helping Ukrainian refugees flee into Poland, and Penn said its resources may ‘try to cross over the border to add to the resources that are so short.’
More than 4 million people have fled Ukraine to neighboring countries since Russia invaded the country on February 24, according to United Nations data, representing the biggest refugee crisis in Europe since World War Two.
When he returns to the country, Penn will evaluate what else he can do to help.
‘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. ”Here’s what I’m looking to do that I think would be of value. You only have to answer me in one of two ways: don’t come or come and do what you’re planning, or come, but here’s where you could be more helpful,”‘ he said.