When actress Hayden Panettiere met heavyweight boxing champion Wladimir Klitschko at a book launch party in Los Angeles in 2009, she was playing cheerleader-turned-superhero Claire Bennet on the NBC series “Heroes”.
Now it is Wladimir who has become a true superhero in his beleaguered homeland.
The 45-year-old, also nicknamed “Dr. Steelhammer”, and his 50-year-old lookalike brother Vitali – the mayor of Ukraine’s capital Kyiv since 2014 – have become key figures in the Ukrainian resistance.
Panettiere, meanwhile, has all but disappeared from Hollywood. At this point, she is as known for her turbulent relationship as her career.
She started dating actor and real estate agent Brian Hickerson after his 2018 split from Wladimir. In May 2019, the couple had a physical altercation in Los Angeles that led to Hickerson’s arrest on domestic violence charges and an order to stay 100 yards from Panettiere.
The case was closed in October of the same year and the two were seen together a month later. On Valentine’s Day 2020, Hickerson was arrested again and charged with domestic battery against the actress in Wyoming.
In July 2020, he was arrested for a third time, later pleading no contest to two counts of injuring a spouse or girlfriend and sentenced to 45 days in jail.
At the time, Panettiere posted on Instagram, “I’m ready to do my part to make sure this man never hurts anyone again. I’m grateful for my support system, which helped me find the courage to find my voice and my life.
Despite a five-year protective order, she was seen with Hickerson again two months after her release.
Last month, Panettiere and Hickerson got into a fight with guests at the Sunset Marquis hotel in Los Angeles, with part of the fight caught on cellphones – the first time the actress had been seen on camera in a long time.
Panettiere, now 32, started working in TV commercials when she was just 11 months old. She was born in Palisades, NY, in 1989, the daughter of an FDNY captain and a former soap opera actress. Following in her mother’s footsteps, the budding star had full-time roles in “One Life to Live” and “Guiding Light” while still in elementary school. In ninth grade, she was homeschooled, which allowed her more flexibility for her career – including recurring parts on “Ally McBeal” and “Malcolm in the Middle”, as well as Disney films “The Ice Princess and “Remember the Titans.”
While on “Heroes,” the show that made her a star, Panettiere dated co-star Milo Ventimiglia (“This Is Us”) when she was 18 and he was 30.
When she was 20, she met Klitschko through their mutual friend, Bosnian refugee-turned-multimillionaire philanthropist Diana Jenkins, now known as one of the stars of “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.” Both had been involved in Jenkins’ “Room 23”, a book of photographs to benefit human rights projects.
Their relationship was on and off before he proposed in 2013 and their daughter, Kaya, was born a year later.
Panettiere has been open about her battle with a bad bout of postpartum depression that lasted several years, forcing her to take time off from “Nashville,” the TV show she played a country singer on from 2012 to 2018. The series was his last role.
“There’s a lot of misunderstandings and I feel like there’s a lot of people who think it’s not real, it’s not true, it’s something that’s made up in [a sufferer’s] mind,” she said of her postpartum depression in 2015.
“It’s something that’s completely out of control and it’s really painful and it’s really scary and women need a lot of support.”
The actress added: “When they tell you about postpartum depression, you think, ‘OK, I have negative feelings towards my child. I want to hurt my child. I want to hurt my child. I’ve never had those feelings, and some women do.
She and Wladimir broke up for good in 2018 but reportedly remained on good terms and were pictured together at Art Basel in Miami in 2020. While they have spoken of co-parenting, the former boxer has primary custody of Kaya and lives with her in Ukraine. The actress has never revealed why this is the arrangement.
“They’re very, very private,” Hayden’s father, Alan “Skip” Panettiere, who now works as a real estate agent just outside of New York City, told the Post. “They wouldn’t want me to say anything about it.”
In 2019, a source told People: “[Hayden’s] life is on the move with her daughter living far away, and she has other issues weighing on her mind.
In February, when Russia invaded her ex’s homeland, Panettiere said on social media that Kaya was “safe and not in Ukraine.”
Wladimir and his brother are said to be two of the best boxers in history. Together they made over $100 million in the ring and Wladimir won a gold medal as a super heavyweight at the 1996 Olympics.
Alongside President Volodymyr Zelensky, the Klitschko brothers now face a much bigger enemy, Russian President Vladimir Putin. They took to social media and news broadcasts around the world, showing themselves walking through the rubble of kyiv after missile strikes in mid-March as well as other devastation.
Wladimir went to Bucha after the massacre, posting graphic video bodies tied up on the ground which he called civilians and accused Putin of “mass genocide”.
“I am in the city of Bucha, on the outskirts of the capital. What happened here – and everywhere in Ukraine what is happening – is not a special operation, it is not military objects, it is civilians,” Wladimir said in the April 3 video.
The camera then pans over the bodies on the ground.
“They were shot in the head with their hands tied behind their backs,” Wladimir said.
“It’s a genocide of the Ukrainian people, and that’s exactly what the Russian regime, Putin’s regime, the Russian army is doing, killing civilians with their hands tied behind their backs and shot in the head. .”
The brothers also appeared on ABC News last Sunday asking for help.
“First and foremost, we need weapons,” Wladimir said in an interview. with ABC News Sunday alongside Vitali. “We cannot defend our country with fists.”
In their heyday, between 2004 and 2015, the brothers dominated heavyweight boxing and kept their mother’s promise never to fight. But Vitali always stayed closer to home while Wladimir opted for a more jet-set life in London, Miami and Los Angeles, Ukrainian sources said.
“Vitali has been in politics for a while, but many of us are surprised that Wladimir has become so dedicated to the cause,” Ukrainian analyst Vladyslav Faraponov of Internews Ukraine told The Post.
“He has a very glamorous life abroad with many properties all over the world. I didn’t expect Wlad to be so brave and brave to go to Bucha. Both [the brothers] were a symbol of pride and great victories for the country before the war, but now they have also become a symbol of great defense and security. When we see them side by side, we feel that kyiv is not under great threat.
Panettiere, meanwhile, remains among her ex’s staunchest supporters, posting on Instagram in February, “I’m praying for my family and friends out there and for all those who are fighting.”
New York Post