In a recent cover story for Variety, the Oscar-winning actor questioned why his peers stood and applauded Smith’s Best Actor win for Kind Richard, just moments after he walked onto the stage and slapped host Chris Rock for making a joke about Jada Pinkett-Smith’s hair.
Smith, who is subsequently serving an Oscars ban until 2032, has apologised for his outburst numerous times.
“I don’t know Will Smith. I met him once. He seemed very nice when I met him. He was so fucking good in King Richard,” said Penn. “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? Why are you guys standing and applauding his worst moment as a person?” (Penn spent 33 days in jail in 1987 for punching a man.)
Penn went on to suggest that the slap never would have happened had Ukrainian President and his friend Volodymyr Zelensky been allowed to participate at the ceremony by way of a telecast. A proposed, recorded appearance at both the 2022 and 2023 Oscars were rejected by the Academy, which left Penn incensed.
“This fucking bullshit wouldn’t have happened with Zelensky,” the Milk actor said. “Will Smith would never have left that chair to be part of stupid violence. It never would have happened.”
In March 2022, Penn threatened to destroy his two Oscar statues in public if Zelensky was not included in the ceremony amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“I thought, well, fuck, you know? I’ll give them to Ukraine,” Penn told Variety. “They can be melted down to bullets they can shoot at the Russians.”
The actor did not end up destroying his Oscars, but instead gave one to Zelensky. “I told him to keep it and bring it to Malibu after all this is over and his country is safe,” Penn said.
Penn visited Ukraine in February 2022 to film a documentary about the Russian invasion of the country. The actor has also previously spoken about the time he and Jack Nicholson met Vladimir Putin in 2001, describing Russian President as a “creepy little bully”.