Sean Penn likes to get straight to the meat of the matter. And the actor/director does just that in a new Variety interview in which he calls 100% b.s. on the reaction to Will Smith‘s infamous slap of Chris Rock at the 2022 Academy Awards, which was held just weeks after Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.
Penn, whose documentary on his friend Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Superpower, is due out on Monday (Sept. 18), gets “f—ing furious,” in fact, when telling reporter Stephen Rodrick, “the Oscars producer thought, ‘Oh, he’s not light-hearted enough?’ Well, guess what you got instead? Will Smith.”
Fully aware that his perennial pugnaciousness has often made it hard to appreciate him, a red-faced Penn laid out his exact feelings about the refusal to give former-sitcom-star-turned-heroic-wartime-president Zelenskyy a moment to speak during the ceremony; Smith — who would win a best actor Oscar later in the night for his starring role in the Williams family tennis biopic King Richard — stormed the stage and assaulted Chris Rock after the comedian made a joke about wife Jada Pinkett Smith’s hair.
“I don’t know Will Smith. I met him once,” Penn said. “He seemed very nice when I met him. He was so f–king good in King Richard… So why the f–k did you just spit on yourself and everybody else with this stupid f–king thing? Why did I go to f–king 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, 63, spent 33 days in county jail in June 1987 for punching an extra on a movie set and for reckless driving and received a 90-day suspended sentence and $50 fine for two charges of assaulting two journalists who were attempting to photograph him and then-wife Madonna, as well as three years of probation and 300 hours of community service in 2010 after another run-in with a photographer.
“This f–king bulls–t wouldn’t have happened with Zelenskyy,” Penn fumed. “Will Smith would never have left that chair to be part of stupid violence. It never would have happened.”
On the night of the incident, Smith jumped up from his seat and slapped Rock hard across the face after the comedian made a joke about Pinkett Smith’s shaved head, which, Rock later said, he was not aware was a result of the singer/actress’ struggle with alopecia, an autoimmune disorder that can cause hair loss and balding.
During his Oscars acceptance speech, Smith issued a mea culpa of sorts for his actions earlier in the night — without mentioning Rock — with the comedian later declining to press charges. After a more formal apology, Smith resigned from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which banned him from attending any Academy events for 10 years.
Penn, who has won two best actor Oscars for Mystic River (2003) and Milk (2008), also told the magazine that his only option was to destroy his statues. “I thought, well, f–k, you know? I’ll give them to Ukraine,” he said. “They can be melted down to bullets they can shoot at the Russians.”