Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky’s bid to appear virtually at the Academy Awards has been rejected for the second year in a row, Vanity Fair reported on Thursday.
Mike Simpson, a high-powered Hollywood agent from the WME agency who also represents directors Quentin Tarantino and Bong Joon Ho, was supposedly sent in to try to clinch the deal, but the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was not swayed, the article says. The Academy declined to comment to Vanity Fair.
Zelensky’s efforts to appear at the Oscars last year were also rebuffed, reportedly because the Academy wanted to “steer clear of anything political.” Oscars producer Will Packer also allegedly complained that Hollywood was fawning over Zelensky because those affected by the conflict in Ukraine were white, while the many wars impacting non-white people around the world have been largely snubbed by the cultural elite.
Hollywood actor and vocal Zelensky supporter Sean Penn called for a boycott of the awards show and even vowed to melt down his own Oscar statues if his friend was not permitted to speak, a campaign that gained little traction at the time.
While Penn did not end up liquefying his awards, he did give one of them to Zelensky during a visit to Kiev, and has not commented on this year's developments.
The Ukrainian president has been ubiquitous at large-scale public events in the West since the start of Russia’s military offensive in Ukraine last year, appearing via video link to plead for financial and moral support at the Cannes, Venice, and Berlin film festivals, the Grammy Awards, the Glastonbury music festival, and even the New York Stock Exchange, where he rang the opening bell “virtually” in September.
However, Americans appear to be tiring of the comedian-turned-politician’s routine, with polls showing a growing portion of the electorate believes too much of their money is being sent to Ukraine. A recent analysis by German research firm Statista found President Joe Biden’s administration had spent more money on military aid to Ukraine than the US spent annually to fight its own war in Afghanistan.
Italy’s Sanremo song festival last month pulled a planned Zelensky appearance after widespread criticism that saw one of the event participants forgoing his own live appearance in protest.