Variety reports that, for the second year in a row, the Academy of Motion Pictures has rejected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s request to appear on video during the live broadcast of the Oscars.
Zelensky had hoped to follow up his video appearance at the Berlin film festival with a virtual spot Sunday night live on ABC to drum up more support and make a plea for more weapons and material assistance. Sources say WME power agent Mike Simpson made a plea to the Academy to include the comedic actor-turned-politician but was shut down. The Academy declined comment.
Simpson became involved because he represents Aaron Kaufman, who co-directed with Penn the Zelensky documentary “Superpower,” which debuted at the Berlin Film Festival in February. During various press events for the film, Penn called for the U.S. government to step up its military support for Ukraine including “the delivery and supply of long-range precision missiles.” In December, Zelensky visited the U.S. to meet with President Biden and urge Congress to send more military aid to Ukraine.
But not everyone is onboard with giving Zelensky more airtime. Last year, Oscars producer Will Packer nixed a Zelenskyy appearance. Sources say Packer expressed concerns that Hollywood was only showering Ukraine with attention because those affected by the conflict are white. By contrast, Hollywood has ignored wars around the globe that impact people of color, he argued. Packer did not respond to a request for comment. It is unclear what the rationale is for this year’s Oscars rejection, however, the Academy traditionally prefers to focus on the contributions of the filmmaking community and steer clear of anything political–though increasingly this has become more difficult as stars take the opportunity provided by awards ceremonies to air their political causes.
Meanwhile, the Academy isn’t the only group to refuse Zelensky. In September, Zelensky’s team reached out to the Toronto Film Festival about the leader appearing via satellite, but they were denied. A TIFF spokesperson said at the time that the festival “does not comment on discussions with dignitaries, government officials or international embassies.” The spokesperson added that the festival “stands in solidarity with Ukrainians both here at home and abroad and is proud to showcase the depth and creativity of Ukrainian filmmakers at this year’s festival.”
In recent months, Zelensky’s team enlisted Simpson, who represents such heavyweights as Quentin Tarantino and Bong Joon Ho, to make overtures to the Globes and re-engage the Academy after last year’s rejections. While the Globes embraced the idea and gave Zelensky several minutes of airtime, the Academy wasn’t interested. In an added personal twist, Simpson’s son Tommy collaborated on a song for “Superpower” with Ukrainian actress-pop singer Tina Karol.
Discussion about this post