The actor and documentary filmmaker Sean Penn appeared on Hannity on Tuesday to recount his time spent on the ground in Ukraine during the Russian invasion. Penn, who had previously traveled there last fall to film a documentary about the Ukraine-Russia conflict, also detailed relief efforts he is overseeing through his non-profit organization.
The lengthy discussion between two Seans who don’t see eye-to-eye on much was respectful, with Penn acknowledging from the outset that despite his reservations about Hannity’s trustworthiness, he could reach a lot of viewers with what he had to say.
Early in the interview, Hannity questioned Penn about his encounter with President Volodymyr Zelensky as the war was taking shape. “Did he see this coming? Did he believe that this was real?” the Fox News host asked.
Penn recounted that after a COVID-related delay, shooting for the documentary began in November, at which point “we went to Mariupol on the front lines.” As Russia continued to mass troops at its border, Penn said it was hard to get access to the administration. When February came around, “then this thing really escalated.”
Penn explained: “So then we went—I think we got there roughly a week before the invasion, and we met him. I met him face-to-face for the first time the day before the invasion, and then spent time with him, which we document in the film during the invasion—on the day of the invasion. I don’t know that there’s a person on Earth who could know that they were born for such a day, that they could rise to it. So I saw…”
At this point Hannity asked Penn to clarify when this meeting occurred, to which Penn responded that it was the same time Russian forces were attacking Hostomel Airport, about 20 miles outside Kyiv. (Ukrainian resistance there proved quite strong, and the landing strips ended up becoming too damaged for Russian forces to use.)
Penn resumed: “So—in [Zelensky] I saw something that I have never seen before in my lifetime that—like I said, having seen him, yes, prepared for it. Yes, hoping against hope that it would not happen. But a man who had not yet been challenged with: ‘It’s happening.’”
“The next day I saw… the face of something that you see in all of the Ukrainians that we saw and talked to, whether they’re in uniform, out of uniform, school teachers, even children,” Penn recalled. “This extraordinary courage that has come up. It was in his eyes. And it is clear to me that the Ukrainians will win this. The question is at what cost.”
Zelensky, who has accused Russia of committing “genocide” in his country, recently toured the newly liberated town of Bucha, where scenes of the war’s cruel and gruesome consequences are abundant.