Oscars 2023: Academy Rejects President Zelensky’s Bid to Appear on Telecast 

Oscars: Academy Rejects President Zelensky’s Bid to Appear on Telecast

volodymyr zelensky Golden Globes
Courtesy of NBC

For the past year, Volodymyr Zelensky has been greeted with open arms by awards shows, film festivals and the New York Stock Exchange. But when it comes to landing airtime on the most coveted telecast of all — the Oscars — the Ukrainian leader is met with a cold shoulder.

For the second year in a row, the Academy has snubbed Zelensky, who was hoping to follow up his Berlin Film Fest (remote) with a virtual spot on Sunday’s Oscar telecast on ABC. Sources say WME power agent Mike Simpson made a plea to the Academy to include the comedic actor-turned-politician but was shut down. The Academy declined comment.

Zelensky’s overtures to the Oscars comes as polls show Americans’ support for providing assistance to Ukraine has weakened.
Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Zelensky has popped up via satellite at both the Cannes and Venice film festivals as well as the Grammy Awards and virtually rang the Opening Bell of the New York Stock Exchange in September.

Simpson represents Aaron Kaufman, who co-directed with Penn the Zelensky documentary “Superpower.” During various press events for the film, Penn called for the U.S. government to step up its military support for Ukraine including “the delivery and supply of long-range precision missiles.” In December, Zelensky visited the U.S. to meet with President Biden and urge Congress to send more military aid to Ukraine.

But not everyone is onboard with giving Zelensky more airtime. Last year, Oscars producer Will Packer nixed the idea. Sources say Packer expressed concerns that Hollywood was only showering Ukraine with attention because those affected by the conflict are white.

By contrast, Hollywood has ignored wars around the globe that impact people of color, he argued. Packer did not respond to a request for comment. It is unclear what the rationale is for this year’s Oscars rejection, however, the Academy traditionally prefers to focus on the contributions of the filmmaking community and steer clear of anything political.

The Academy isn’t the only group to refuse Zelensky. In September, Zelensky’s team reached out to the Toronto Film Fest about the leader appearing via satellite, but they were denied. A TIFF spokesperson said that the festival “does not comment on discussions with dignitaries, government officials or international embassies.” The spokesperson added 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.”

In added personal twist, Simpson’s son Tommy collaborated on song for “Superpower” with Ukrainian actress-pop singer Tina Karol.