Editor’s Note: Whether on screen or off, Hollywood can always be counted on to keep us entertained. This is especially true when it comes to politics. Join us each week as we shine the spotlight on Tinseltown’s A-listers and their wacky and sometimes inspiring takes on today’s current events.
The President of the People
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has become something of a symbol across the world, a modern-day David to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Goliath, as Ukraine continues to defend itself against invasion. This charismatic chief has shown other leaders how to be a commander people will get behind.
Besides being a political star, Zelensky was also an entertainment celebrity before becoming president. He was a well-known and popular comedian and actor, and he even competed in Ukraine’s version of Dancing with the Stars in 2006 – which he won. It was recently discovered the president had been the voice of the lovable Paddington bear in the animated movie. Ironically, in the political satire series Servant of the People, Zelensky played the part of a schoolteacher who complained about corruption and ended up becoming president of Ukraine.
Leaders around the world have joined together in condemning Putin for his cowardly invasion while extolling Zelensky for his bravery and commitment to his country and people, and Hollywood was quick to join in. Producers, directors, network officials, and others in the film industry got together to discuss what they could do to demonstrate the entertainment sector’s distaste for Putin. After only a few hours, decisions were made, and Russia was banned from many avenues.
Russian delegations, as well as anyone associated with the Russian government, will be barred from attending the festival held in France this year “Unless the war of assault ends in conditions that will satisfy the Ukrainian people,” the organizers of the Cannes Film Festival said in a statement.
DirecTV is dropping RT America, a state media channel. The program’s contract was coming up for review soon, but the satellite provider reported: “In line with our previous agreement with RT America, we are accelerating this year’s contract expiration timeline and will no longer offer their programming effective immediately.”
On Thursday, March 3, RT America announced it was stopping production and had laid off most of its employees. A memo by the general manager credited “unforeseen business interruption events” as the cause.
The Walt Disney Company was the first U.S. film studio to take action against Putin’s invasion. “Given the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and the tragic humanitarian crisis, we are pausing the release of theatrical films in Russia,” the company stated. Among those, Pixar’s Turning Red will not open in Russia for the time being. The next big production to be released is Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness slotted for May 6, but there’s no word as to whether it will be withheld from Russia yet. Spider-Man: No Way Home grossed $45 million in Russia last year.
The National Association of Television Program Executives banned Russian companies from participating in the upcoming television sales event, which will take place in Budapest in June. In a statement, the organization said:
“The Ukrainian people have our full support over the barbaric and horrific invasion of their homeland by the brutal dictator Putin and his surrogates. We wish we could provide more tangible assistance, but what we can do is join the world community and prevent Russian presence from conducting commerce.”
Paramount, Netflix, Sony, Warner Bros
Paramount announced it will hold the release of The Lost City, starring Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum, as well as Sonic the Hedgehog 2, from Russia. The former is set to air in the U.S. on March 25 and was scheduled to open in Russia in April. Sonic was slotted for March 31 in Russia. “As we witness the ongoing tragedy in Ukraine, we have decided to pause the theatrical release of our upcoming films in Russia,” the network announced.
A Russian agreement requires a network with more than 100,000 subscribers to carry 20 state-run TV stations on its service. Netflix is the only international network to have the required viewers in Russia, but the latest word is the company won’t comply. Currently, Netflix has four different Russian-language series in various stages of production, including ZATO, which wrapped up filming in December.
Among productions being held from Russia include Morbius, a Spider-man adjacent movie. Morbius is scheduled to open in the U.S. on April 1. “Given the ongoing military action in Ukraine and the resulting uncertainty and humanitarian crisis unfolding in that region, we will be pausing our planned theatrical releases in Russia,” the network said.
WarnerMedia is pausing the release of The Batman in Russia, saying “We will continue to monitor the situation as it evolves. We hope for a swift and peaceful resolution to this tragedy.”
Applebee’s vs CNN
Hollywood isn’t the only industry canceling things due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Applebee’s restaurant chain took exception to CNN’s advertising placement. During one of its morning shows, CNN aired an Applebee’s ad side-by-side with the headline “Russia Invades Ukraine.”
Social media instantly attacked with comments on Twitter such as “The war in Ukraine….brought to you by Applebee’s!” Company execs did not appreciate the ad placement. “When we were made aware that our ad was placed in this manner, we immediately reached out to CNN to pause our advertising on their network,” the eatery said in a statement. “It never should have aired, and we are disappointed in the actions of the network.”
Research director Scott Whitlock tweeted: “Really CNN? There’s this thing called tone and tact. Look it up. Because your blending of commercials and all hell breaking out in Europe is not working.”
Cheers and Jeers
Sometimes, HollyWeird players make headlines for silly or bizarre happenings, so here is a collection of newsworthy doings — honorable and dishonorable — by the tenants of Tinseltown.
Russian Oligarch Says He’s Hurt by Sanctions
During his SOTU, President Joe Biden said that a new task force was going to be searching for and seizing Russian oligarchs’ yachts, planes, and other goodies purchased from their “ill-gotten gains.” Billionaire Roman Abramovich said his heart is breaking and, because of these sanctions, he has decided to sell Premier League soccer club Chelsea – you know, before it is seized. In a statement, he said, “Please know that this has been an incredibly difficult decision to make, and it pains me to part with the club in this manner.” However, Abramovich did say the “net proceeds would go to all the victims of the war in Ukraine.” The club is worth about $3.2 billion, Abramovich is estimated to be worth $13.5 billion.
Labour M.P. Chris Bryant told the House of Commons that he thinks Abramovich “is terrified of being sanctioned, which is why he’s already going to sell his home tomorrow, and sell another flat as well. My anxiety is that we’re taking too long about these things.” Besides the Chelsea club, Abramovic owns a 15-bedroom home in London’s Billionaires Row. Some argue, however, that Abramovich is not really being sanctioned because of his holdings in London. His children are also in London.
Tune in next week to see what else Tinseltown has planned.
Read more from Kelli Ballard.