Sacha Baron Cohen is not someone you would describe as uncontroversial. Now, his over-the-top antics may have gotten him banned from the 84th Annual Academy Awards. He’s been a British hip-hop artist (Ali G Indahouse), a Kazakhstani immigrant (Borat) and a flamboyant Austrian fashionista (Bruno), each one more polarizing than the last. Apparently his new character from The Dictator, General Aladeen, is not welcome at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ annual awards show. Hit the jump to find out what got The Dictator banned and to see why this might all just boil down to a publicity stunt one way or another.
Deadline reported on the MPAA’s withholding of Cohen’s tickets to this year’s Academy Awards. Cohen, who is known for doing live stunts in character to drum up interest in his movies, had petitioned the Academy to allow him to strut the red carpet as The Dictator. Rather than simply turning down the idea, they had reportedly banned him from the show, even though Cohen’s movie, Hugo, is up for eleven nominations, including Best Picture. An insider from the Academy summed it up nicely as follows:
“Unless they’re assured that nothing entertaining is going to happen on the Red Carpet, the Academy is not admitting Sacha Baron Cohen to the show.”
Without Cohen in attendance, “nothing entertaining” is exactly what the Academy will get. However, THR is reporting that the Academy hasn’t yet banned Cohen, they’re just waiting him out. So says an Academy spokesperson:
“We don’t think it’s appropriate. But his tickets haven’t been pulled. We’re waiting to hear back.”
On one hand, if the Academy allows Cohen to publicize his movie, they’ll open the door for others to do it in the future. Only this year, they made an exception to let movie-related advertising run during their commercial breaks. Then again, I’m reminded of Ben Stiller dressed full-out in an Avatar costume, complete with blue makeup. So where is the line to be drawn?
Except for the return of Billy Crystal to the host’s podium, the broadcast is unlikely to contain any surprises, either in the scheduled program of events or in the winners’ bracket. Perhaps this is all just a stunt dreamed up by Cohen and the Academy to up the shock value when General Aladeen makes an uninvited appearance, but that may be too much excitement to hope for. Starring Cohen, Ben Kingsley, John C. Reilly, and Anna Faris, The Dictator opens May 11th.