KYIV, Ukraine — He spoke to two movie stars via video call from the bombed and besieged city of Kiev.
His aides lobbied the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for an Oscar night endorsement. In the midst of the war, he re-released his own TV show on Netflix.
President Volodymyr Zelensky, the actor-turned-war leader of Ukraine, has devoted most of his public appearances to calling on Western countries for deadly weapons to fight the Russians: tanks, fighter jets and missiles.
But Mr. Zelensky, who before he became president, starred in romantic comedies and performed stand-up routines, has also pushed for celebrities and performers to stand up for his country, in what his aides say is a worthwhile effort to harness the global soft power of to strengthen Ukraine. advantage over Russia.
“We live in the modern world and we know that opinion leaders and celebrities are important,” said Ekaterine Zguladze, a former deputy interior minister who is now involved in the Ukrainian government’s drive to gain support from artists, musicians and celebrities. “It is not only politicians who shape the world.”
Ms Zguladze added: “At present there is genuine solidarity for Ukraine all over the world. And this solidarity is not because of the heartbreaking images of destroyed cities and human tragedies, but because of the values we all share.”
But Ukraine’s appeal to the academy, the organization that awards the Oscars, encountered a tragedy of its own.
Before the show, organizers said the war would be noticed and the human toll honored, but they hadn’t committed to a video appearance by Mr. Zelensky, said Brian Keith Etheridge, a Los Angeles sitcom writer. He helped coordinate the Ukrainian government’s outreach to the academy, with help from Mila Kunis, an actress of Ukrainian descent, and her husband, Ashton Kutcher.
“The concern we were told is that they don’t want to over-politicize the show,” said Mr. Etheridge. “If Zelensky just says ‘thank you’, it will remind people and it could make millions of dollars. It’s such a huge platform to show his face.”
Sean Penn, who was filming a documentary in Ukraine when war broke out, has called for a boycott of the Oscars if Mr. Zelensky is banned from appearing on video and has vowed to melt his own awards if the academy disapproves of the Ukrainian leader. The award statues are made of gilt bronze.
If the Oscar producers don’t allow action for “the leadership in Ukraine, who is taking bullets and bombs for us, along with the Ukrainian children they’re trying to protect, then I think all those people, and every bit of that decision , will have been the most obscene moment in all of Hollywood history,” Penn told DailyExpertNews in an interview.
At a press conference on Thursday, the producers said they planned to commemorate the toll of the war, but did not commit to a video appearance by Mr. Zelensky.
“We’re going to think very carefully about how we recognize where we are in the world,” Will Packer, an Oscar ceremony producer, said at a news conference Thursday.
Speaking about a possible appearance by Mr. Zelensky, he said: “The show is in the works, so that’s not something we would say definitively at this point or another. As I said before, we want to be fun and festive, but we’re definitely going to do it in a respectful way.”
Comedic actress Wanda Sykes, one of the co-hosts of the ceremony, said of Mr. Zelensky, “Isn’t he busy right now?”
While the assistants of Mr. While Zelensky pushed for support in any form during the show, in search of a way to gain public support in the West, the value of celebrity support in a shooting war is not universally recognized in Ukraine.
“Ultimately, what happens on the ground is important,” said Oleksandr Danylyuk, a former secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council. “Everyone is doing what they can. I don’t know if another speech from Zelensky will make a difference. But it’s good that those who initiate it want to do it. Everyone wants to help in one way or another.”
But Mr Danylyuk said that “in the end you need results” such as the supply of fighter jets, tanks or missiles for the Ukrainian army.
Mr Zelensky has urged on all fronts to convey to a wide audience, and in particular to arms supplying countries, the moral obligation to support Ukraine in the war.
“In general, Zelensky really follows the news from Hollywood and looks for opportunities for support,” Serhiy Leshchenko, an adviser to the president’s chief of staff, said in an interview.
The push for support for Ukraine at the Oscars began a week ago after Mr. Zelensky spoke to Mr. Kutcher and Ms. Kunis on a video call from Kiev to thank the couple for raising $35 million for Ukrainian refugees and humanitarian aid. help in a GoFundMe campaign, Mr. Leshchenko said.
Ms. Kunis most recently starred in “Breaking News in Yuba County” and has a planned movie release through Netflix, “Luckiest Girl Alive.”
“Ukrainians are proud and brave people who deserve our help in times of need,” she wrote in the fundraising appeal. “This unjust attack on Ukraine and humanity in general is devastating and the Ukrainian people need our support.”
After the video call, Mr. Zelensky has a last minute spot at the Oscar ceremony.
Mr. Zelensky has always had a keen sense of image and storytelling in politics. Earlier this month, he said he was aware that his repeated televised calls for resistance and his continued presence in the besieged capital had made him a symbol of courage in many countries.
The Oscars also fit well with his administration’s appeal for humanitarian aid, as many of his top staffers are also film industry veterans.
The head of the presidential government, Andriy Yermak, was a media lawyer and film producer. The head of the domestic intelligence service, Ivan Bakanov, had been the director of the Kvartal 95 studio. The chief presidential adviser, Serhiy Shefir, was a screenwriter and producer whose major credits include a hit romantic comedy film “Eight First Dates” and a television series “The In-laws.”
Before becoming president of Ukraine, Mr. Zelensky a president on his own television series, “Servant of the People,” which was re-released on Netflix this month. The character, a teacher, is sent for the presidency after he goes on an anti-corruption diatribe, which is filmed by his students in a video that goes viral.
Maria Varenikova contributed from Kiev and Matt Stevens from New York.