Sean Penn is refusing to return to work on the upcoming TV series ‘Gaslit’ until Covid-19 vaccines are made mandatory for all crew members, in a controversial move that could lead to major changes in the industry.
Recently returning from a globe-trotting trip to the Cannes Film Festival to promote his directorial effort, ‘Flag Day,’ Penn has refused to continue working on the Starz series ‘Gaslit,’ in which he stars, which still has two weeks of production left to complete.
The actor has offered to facilitate the vaccination efforts free of charge through his organization CORE, which has helped administer tests and vaccines throughout the pandemic.
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‘Gaslit,’ which co-stars Julia Roberts, is a ’70s-set limited series focusing on various figures involved in the Watergate scandal, and is being shot in Burbank, California. The studio behind the project, NBCUniversal, had already sent a memo to ‘Zone A’ staff – cast members and any crew coming within close proximity of them – mandating vaccines and offering them for free at a clinic set up near the production’s base. But Penn apparently wants everyone on set to get a jab, even those he won’t be interacting with.
The actor, who is fully vaccinated himself, is reportedly insisting on expanding the vaccine mandate not out of personal concern, but rather to make a point about the safety of allowing too many unvaccinated people to continue working on a set, according to a report from Deadline.
Health officials in California, as in numerous other states, have continued warning about the Delta variant in recent weeks as the number of cases rise again, especially in Los Angeles where a mask mandate was just put back in place.
Penn has been one of the most vocal celebrities pushing for vaccinations and masking – although he’s also one of many accused of breaking the same Covid restrictions he was championing at the height of the pandemic – and this latest move could spell major changes for the industry as a whole.
Anecdotally, I’m told that not only are the vaccines totally safe, but they also help burn weight. Healthier & slimmer in one shot.
— Sean Penn (@SeanPenn) July 17, 2021
Movie and television productions have been under strict safety protocols since they resumed, and only lengthy negotiations between studios and unions have led to the agreement whereby cast members and Zone A crew could be required to be vaccinated. Expanding this mandate could lead to labor-law issues and even see productions such as ‘Gaslit’ shut down.
While Penn has earned praise from vaccine enthusiasts for his assertive efforts, some on social media have reacted by mocking and questioning his risking ‘Gaslit’ crew members’ paychecks because of his crusade.
The controversial star has nonetheless earned praise from industry colleagues, including actress Ellen Barkin.
If he doesn’t return to work, he will delay the production still further, adding to the studio’s rising costs.
While at the Cannes Film Festival, Penn took the time to blast former president Donald Trump’s response to Covid-19, saying he had let the country down by spreading “half-truths” and “misinformation.”
“When my [CORE] team and I would come home from test and vaccination sites at night – particularly, during testing under Trump, to maddening news – it felt like someone with a machine gun was gunning down communities that were most vulnerable from a turret at the White House,” he said.
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