Sean Penn’s remark about Mexican-born Oscar-winner Alejandro Inarritu’s immigration status at the end of Sunday’s Academy Awards telecast struck many as an insult, but the director says it was nothing more than a brutal joke between old friends. In announcing the win for “Birdman,” Penn asked, “Who gave this son of a bitch his green card? Birdman.”
The Best Picture winning director said after the award show, “I found it hilarious”. “Sean and I have that kind of brutal (relationship) where only true friendship can survive.” Inarritu directed Penn in his 2003 film “21 Grams,” and the pair have remained friends since.
Inarritu said he has told many similarly brutal jokes at Penn’s expense. “I make on him a lot of very tough jokes that I will not tell you,” Inarritu said.
Although it was a seemingly harmless joke to Penn, the remark struck many online as problematic for an awards ceremony that had been criticized for not having more nominees of color. In fact, the hashtag #oscarssowhite was passed over the social media platforms and seemed to be validated by Penn’s “joke”.
Inarritu went on to say, “Maybe next year, the government will inflict some immigration rules (on) the academy. Two Mexicans in a row, that’s suspicious, I guess.”
“I want to dedicate this award for my fellow Mexicans, the ones who live in Mexico,” Inarritu said. “I pray that we can find and build the government that we deserve. And the ones that live in this country who are part of the latest generation of immigrants in this country, I just pray that they can be treated with the same dignity and the respect of the ones who came before and (built) this incredible immigrant nation.”
Although it was hard for many too accept and the joke may have been delivered in bad timing, Penn and Inarritu are long time friends and that remains as the only basis for why Penn said what he said. He was proud to deliver such a prestigious award to his friend.