Hollywood doesn't get much stranger than Vitalii Sediuk. The infamous Ukrainian journalist-turned-prankster was up to no good on Wednesday night, storming the worldwide premiere of Maleficent and assaulting Brad Pitt. Or, in the words of a Los Angeles police officer who probably could have been doing something more valuable with her time, "some guy jumped over the barricades and made contact with Brad Pitt." But Sediuk, who was immediately booked for a misdemeanor battery as in being held in lieu of $20,000 bail, isn't just "some guy." He's made an entire career of accosting celebrities, from Bradley Cooper to Will Smith to Adele.
The most typical response to Sediuk's pranks is to label him as a sinister menace, a man whose chief objective is to cause celebrities extreme discomfort. Sediuk's also managed to piss off the entertainment journalism old guard; publications like the LA Times and The Washington Post, which argue that the omnipresence of niche blogs and foreign journalists has allowed Sediuk to obtain press credentials at a myriad of events, despite his checkered past. They argue that the industry is so eager to woo global markets, foreign viewers, and blog aficionados that they let troublemakers like Sediuk in hoping for more press, without vouching for journalistic legitimacy and integrity. Blaming blogs and foreign media? Way harsh, guys!
It's easy to immediately dismiss Sediuk as a crazy, angry man with some homosexual tendencies and an America Ferrera foot fetish (don't worry, we'll get there). But there's something innately appealing about how Sediuk penetrates the invisible barrier between celebrities and mere mortals—proving that stars are real people who can be touched and prodded, confused and annoyed.
They might not merit the title of performance art, and they’re often illegal, but Sediuk's juvenile pranks are also vaguely revolutionary. The world of Hollywood celebrities is constructed through careful performances; on and off screen, stars are not people but personas, with orchestrated public images and pretty, painted faces to match. Sediuk's celeb baiting doesn't merely pull real personalities out of fixed facades; it also reveals the depth and intensity of the structures that put celebrities on these insane pedestals in the first place. The fact that it is so very difficult to touch Brad Pitt, that the LAPD will put you in jail for this “crime,” and that a number of reputable publications will publicly admonish you for your actions, shows that our celebrity culture is far more ridiculous than Sediuk himself.
Invading the privacy of any individual without their consent is wrong. That being said, what Friends fanatic wouldn't like to give Brad Pitt a little slap? The pantheon of Sediuk pranks ranges from sneakily clever to blatantly rude. We went through his rap sheet in an attempt to find the line between revelatory civil disobedience and complete nonsense.
When Sediuk gifted Madonna with hydrangeas at the 2011 Venice Film Festival, witnesses were likely unaware that they were watching an extremely clever prank unfold. The intelligence of this act was twofold: it requires an insane level of Madonna knowledge, and it also won't get you arrested. Madonna (famously?) hates hydrangeas, a little secret that Sediuk was clearly in on. His prank elicited fabulous results: Madonna rolled her eyes on camera before telling an assistant "I absolutely loath hydrangeas. He obviously doesn't know that." But it gets better. Ignorant of Sediuk's true intentions, Madonna publicly apologized to the journalist. A genuine show of celebrity rudeness, followed by an insincere PR performance? Not bad, if Sediuk's intentions really were to elicit an authentic response from the original Material Girl.
In 2012 Sediuk upped the ante from flowers to foreplay, setting his sights on Will Smith at the Men in Black 3 premiere. Sediuk made his way on to the red carpet, where he kissed Smith on both cheeks, reportedly grazing his lips in the process. Smith's reaction was violent: he exclaimed, "What the hell is wrong with you?" and slapped the reporter in the face. The slap seemed pretty light, but Smith's fury was unexpectedly real, especially in response to a relatively harmless double cheek kiss—a European tradition! The fact that a mammoth celebrity felt so threatened by the mere implication of male-on-male intimacy is undeniably interesting. Is this a normal reaction, or a homophobic one? Odds are, Sediuk was aware of longstanding rumors that Smith is trapped in the closet…making this silly prank a lot more probing than it might initially appear.
In January 2014, Sediuk crashed another red carpet—this time at the Screen Actor's Guild Awards. Sediuk wasted little time finding his target, as he wrapped his arms around Bradley Cooper's legs and nestled his head in his crotch. Cooper good-naturedly laughed off the prank, before eliciting help from some other actors for speedy Sediuk removal. No one is questioning the urge to get up close and personal with Bradley Cooper, but this prank feels both invasive and dumb. The prank itself seems meaningless, and the reaction was un-extraordinary: all in all, a dud.
Sediuk's second-most-recent prank occurred at this year's Cannes film festival, where he snuck under America Ferrera's dress. Confused? So was the How to Train Your Dragon 2 star, who appeared both startled and bemused by the squatter in her frock. Sediuk was promptly removed by security. While this prank certainly created some buzz, it’s also slightly perverse—after all, there's nothing funny about the way that paparazzi genuinely monetize views up female celebrities' skirts. And having an unwanted man charge under your dress is just plain scary, whether or not you're on the red carpet.
In 2013 Sediuk crashed the Grammy's, stealing Adam Levine's seat and biding his time. When Adele won Best Solo Pop Performance, Sediuk stormed the stage, attempting to accept the award in Adele's stead. "It's such an honor to receive this award," he began—luckily, presenter J. Lo quickly cut him off. He managed a tender "I love you, Adele" before he was bum rushed off the platform. Sure, making your way on to the Grammy's stage with absolutely no press credentials is a feat, but you just don't mess with Adele. Period.