Sean Penn Is Considering ‘Taking Up Arms’ Against Russia

by Chris Haney

As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine presses on, Hollywood star Sean Penn continues to show support for the besieged country. After spending time in the country working on a documentary on the Russia-Ukraine conflict over the last year, Penn recently admitted he’s even considered “taking up arms” against Russian troops.

The 61-year-old actor originally met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on a Zoom call around two years ago “early on in the pandemic.” As tensions escalated in the country, Penn and a film crew flew to Ukraine and began working on the documentary. The group flew to Ukraine in February and was in the country as Russia’s invasion began. In fact, while speaking to Hollywood Authentic magazine recently, Sean Penn opened up about being with President Zelenskyy as Russians invaded the country.

“We first started discussing a potential documentary about his country that wasn’t focused particularly on the war,” Sean Penn said in the interview. “And since then there’s been a lot of exchanges between us. Then I went and met him face to face the day before the invasion. And I was with him during the invasion, on day one.”

Penn returned to the U.S. in early March and has not made it back to Ukraine since. However, after spending time in Kyiv, he admits he’s thought about joining Ukraine’s resistance against Russia.

“I was at the gas station in Brentwood [California] the other day and I’m now thinking about taking up arms against Russia? What the f**k is going on?” Sean Penn explained.

Sean Penn Intends to Return to Ukraine at Some Point

The famous actor is no stranger to war-torn countries and other danger zones. As a young man, he photographed the Karen guerrillas in Burma. In 1995, he was in Grozny for the Russian assault. Penn went to New Orleans in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina hit and helped rescue stranded citizens. Following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, he spent weeks volunteering as he helped lead relief efforts.

Additionally, Sean Penn interviewed Mexican drug lord El Chapo in 2015. So his travels to Ukraine aren’t the first time he’s put himself in harms way. Yet joining the Ukraine resistance would be the first time the actor took part in a war.

“The only possible reason for me staying in Ukraine longer last time would’ve been for me to be holding a rifle,” Penn shared. “Probably without body armor, because as a foreigner, you would want to give that body armor to one of the civilian fighters who doesn’t have it. Or to a fighter with more skills than I have, or to a younger man or woman who could fight for longer or whatever. So, where I am in life is short of doing that. But if you’ve been in Ukraine, [fighting] has to cross your mind.”

During the interview, Sean Penn revealed that he intends to travel back to Ukraine when he can. But he’s also aware that he may not be able to help as much as he’d like if he did return right now.

“My intention is to go back into Ukraine,” he said. “But I’m not an idiot, I am not certain what I can offer. I don’t spend a lot of time texting the president or his staff while they’re under siege and their people are being murdered.”

The Actor Is Making a Difference Through His Nonprofit CORE

As mentioned, Sean Penn spent time in Haiti helping with relief efforts after the devastating earthquake in 2010. While volunteering in the country, he created his nonprofit organization, CORE (Community Organized Relief Effort). The group is currently helping Ukrainian refugees in Poland.

Co-founder Ann Lee runs CORE these days, but Penn said in the interview he’ll be more involved soon. The actor plans to “get hands-on” with CORE once again when he travels to Poland. He also added that CORE could expand their efforts into Ukraine at some point as well. For now, he’s assessing the value of the documentary they’ve been filming in Ukraine. Penn admits there’s no evidence the documentary would change anything, but he says it may provide “hope” to a country that needs it.

“I’ve got plenty to do with CORE on the receiving side of refugees in Poland,” Sean Penn said. “I’m shooting more for the documentary, but I’ll be doing a last-minute assessment of what value that will have. People will argue this, and there’s a million debates that I understand, but long term, we don’t have any tangible evidence that documentaries really change anything. We just don’t. We only know they can give hope.”