Paddington’s Hugh Bonneville Thanks Ukraine President Zelensky for Voicing International Version

Wait, What? Hugh Bonneville Thanks Ukraine President for ‘Paddington’ Role
Hugh Bonneville and Volodymyr Zelensky. Karl Schoendorfer/Shutterstock; EyePress News/Shutterstock

A surprise connection. Paddington star Hugh Bonneville thanked Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky for voicing the titular bear in an international version of the film.

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“Until today I had no idea who provided the voice of @paddingtonbear in Ukraine,” the Downton Abbey alum, 58, wrote via Twitter on Sunday, February 27. “Speaking for myself, thank you, President Zelenskiy.” The following day, the film’s production company, Studio Canal, confirmed that Zelensky, 44, voiced the beloved bear for both 2014’s Paddington and its 2017 sequel.

While it may seem strange that a world leader provided the voice for a marmalade-loving bear in a children’s movie, Zelensky was a successful actor and comedian in his home country prior to winning the 2019 presidential election. After earning a law degree, the statesman pursued a career in show business, even founding a production company, Kvartal 95, in 2003. Zelensky foreshadowed his eventual career in politics in 2015 when he produced and starred in the satirical TV show Servant of the People, in which he played a high-school history teacher who becomes the unlikely president of Ukraine.

In March 2018, he cofounded the Servant of the People political party, named after the popular show, and in December of that year, Zelensky led a successful campaign to unseat the former president, Petro Poroshenko. He was inaugurated in May 2019.

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Bonneville is far from the only star to share their support for Zelensky following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “The president of Ukraine was a comic. He was a wonderful comic performer, and we should respect that [about] him,” Brian Cox said as the Succession cast accepted the best ensemble honor at the Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday, February 27.

Michael Keaton, who won for his performance in Dopesick, also took a moment to back Zelensky at the SAG Awards, saying: “We have a fellow actor in Zelensky, who deserves some credit for fighting the fight.”

As Russian troops began invading Ukraine on Thursday, February 24, Dancing With the Stars alum Maksim Chmerkovskiy gave fans a look at what was going on in his home country. “Everyone was hoping that the finality of the situation would be averted,” the dancer, 42, said in an Instagram video filmed in the country’s capital, Kyiv. “Honestly, I’m getting really emotional. It’s been a little difficult. You know me, I stay strong. And I don’t show it, but I want to go back home.”

Two days later, Chmerkovskiy confirmed that he was in “a very safe place,” before opening up about the emotional toll of witnessing the attacks. “This is a war. This is a crazy situation. It’s insane and I’m losing my final little things,” the World of Dance host said via his Instagram Story on Sunday. “This is not a cry for help. I’m a big boy. I can handle myself… but I’m starting to not be able to just sort of keep my head.”

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He continued: “The reality is, I just want to go home. I’m just hoping for a safe ending to it all.”

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