Midway through the 2022 Oscars telecast on Sunday night, there was a moment of silence for the people of Ukraine amid Russia’s unprovoked invasion.
Following a performance by Reba McEntire that was introduced by Ukraine-born actor Mila Kunis, who mentioned feeling “gutted” by recent global events, a message appeared on screen.
“We’d like to have a moment of silence to show our support for the people of Ukraine currently facing invasion, conflict and prejudice within their own borders,” the screen read.
“While film is an important avenue for us to express our humanity in times of conflict, the reality is millions of families in Ukraine need food, medical care, clean water, and emergency services. Resources are scarce, and we — collectively as a global community — can do more.”
The 30-second clip ended with a call to all those watching around the world: “We ask you to support Ukraine in any way you are able. #StandWithUkraine.”
Ahead of the 94th annual ceremony, there were rumors that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy would make a surprise virtual appearance during the show to urge celebrities and artists to speak up in solidarity with his country.
Zelenskyy’s aides reportedly lobbied the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to show some form of support, according to The New York Times, with Kunis helping to coordinate the Ukrainian government’s outreach.
Zelenskyy has long held ties to the entertainment industry. Before he was elected Ukraine’s president, he worked as an actor and comedian, starring for years in the satirical comedy series “Servant of the People,” which is now available to stream on Netflix. He also appeared as a contestant in the Ukrainian version of “Dancing with the Stars” and voiced the role of Paddington Bear in the 2014 film, among other past credits.
Amy Schumer, who is co-hosting the ceremony with Wanda Sykes and Regina Hall, was the first to publicly mention the idea of Zelenskyy appearing at the event, but the academy had stayed mum on whether he’d been invited.
“I wanted to find a way to have Zelenskyy satellite in or make a tape or something, just because there are so many eyes on the Oscars,” Schumer said on “The Drew Barrymore Show” earlier this month. “I think it’s a great opportunity to at least comment on a couple of things. I have some jokes that kind of highlight the sort of current condition.”
Amid the speculation that producers nixed Schumer’s idea, Sean Penn, one of Hollywood’s most vocal Ukraine supporters, threatened to smelt his own Oscar trophy in protest.
“If it turns out to be what is happening, I would encourage everyone involved — though it may be their moment, and I understand that, to celebrate their films — it is so much more importantly their moment to shine, and to protest and to boycott that Academy Awards,” Penn, who was on the ground during the early days of Ukraine’s invasion, told CNN’s Jim Acosta in an interview this week.
The entertainment industry has come out in full force to show support for Ukraine. A slew of stars, including Jamie Lee Curtis and Jason Momoa, sported blue ribbons on the red carpet provided by the United Nations refugee agency.
In recent months, many celebrities have publicly condemned Russia’s actions and raised funds for refugees fleeing the country. Perhaps most notably, Kunis, who was born in Ukraine before moving to the United States as a child, and her husband, Ashton Kutcher, raised nearly $35 million through a GoFundMe campaign for refugee and humanitarian aid efforts.
The couple spoke with Zelenskyy over a video call earlier this month with the president thanking them directly for their efforts to secure aid in the war-torn nation.