Back in 2001, Sean Penn found himself next to Jack Nicholson in a speeding car on the way to meet Russian president Vladimir Putin. The two actors were in Russia for the world premiere of “The Pledge” at the Moscow Film Festival. The Penn-directed psychological drama starred Nicholson as a retiring police detective who vows to catch the killer of a young child. Penn recently spoke to The Independent about his anxiety-inducing journey to meet Putin.
“We were put in a convoy,” Penn said. “We knew that Putin was going to be the honored guest. In the nature of that time and space, we accepted the invitation. We got in this convoy, and we were going as fast as they wanted to drive, with no care for whether it might have presented danger in the villages we drove through.”
“When farmers with pony-driven carts were trying to come across, the security people in our vehicles would lean out the window to baton them away,” Penn continued. “It was so needlessly aggressive.”
The actor said the entire journey gave him “a cold, ugly feeling.”
Penn has been making the press rounds at the Berlin Film Festival and beyond in support of his new documentary “Superpower,” which follows Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy amid Ukraine’s war against Russia. Penn slammed Putin as a “creepy little bully” during a press conference for the film at Berlin.
“It’s not so much about what if Ukraine loses, because they won’t, but…if Russia wins, we are all fucked,” Penn said later about the war. “Just dead-set fucked. As Americans, I can say we’re going to have to take on board a level of shame for not having scaled up sooner with the weapons.”
The Guardian reported in 2001 that Nicholson offered Putin a job during their meeting at the Moscow Film Festival. Putin reportedly expressed his love for Nicholson’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” to which Nicholson allegedly offered Putin a film producer role on a future project.