The organisers of the 2023 Oscars have reportedly blocked a request from Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to speak during the ceremony.
The 95th Academy Awards takes place in Los Angeles on Sunday (March 12). According to Variety, Zelenskyy was hoping to follow up a recent remote appearance at the Berlin Film Festival with a virtual spot at the Oscars.
According to sources, his new agent Mike Simpson (who also represents Quentin Tarantino and Bong Joon Ho) asked the academy to feature the comedic actor-turned-politician but was shut down. The Academy declined comment.
It’s the second year in a row an appearance from Zelenskyy has been rejected by the Oscars.
According to sources, Producer Will Packer turned Zelenskyy down in 2022 over concerns that Hollywood was only giving Ukraine such a platform because the people affected by the invasion of Russia were mostly white. Packer reportedly argued that the Academy has largely ignored wars around the globe that impact people of colour, however he did not respond to Variety’s request for comment.
Back in September, the Toronto Film Festival also denied Zelenskyy’s team. A spokesperson said that the festival “does not comment on discussions with dignitaries, government officials or international embassies,” while that the festival “stands in solidarity with Ukranians both here at home and abroad and is proud to showcase the depth and creativity of Ukrainian filmmakers at this year’s festival.”
Following the invasion of Ukraine by Russia last March, Zelenskyy has spoken at a variety of events including the 2022 Grammys and the 2023 Golden Globes.
Last November, Sean Penn handed one of his Oscars to Zelenskyy during a trip to Kyiv.
The actor, who has visited Ukraine numerous times amid Russia’s invasion of the country to shoot a documentary, told Zelenskyy that “it’s just a symbolic silly thing, but if I know this is here I’ll feel better and strong enough for the fights.”
Last March, Penn vowed to “smelt” his Oscars if the Academy didn’t ask Zelenskyy to speak during the 2022 awards ceremony. While he didn’t make an appearance, there was a statement expressing support for Ukraine during the event.