UPDATED 5:30 PM WITH MORE DETAILS
EXCLUSIVE… BREAKING 3PM… The Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has pulled actor Sacha Baron Cohen‘s tickets from the 84th Academy Awards. This means he is banned from attending the Oscars even though he is an Academy member and one of the stars from Hugo, Paramount’s 11-nominated movie and Best Picture contender. “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,” Paramount just told me. The reason is that a proposal reached the Academy for Baron Cohen to strut the Red Carpet in full costume as his title character in the upcoming Paramount comedy The Dictator. UPDATE AT 5:30 PM: Later today, faced with all the bad publicity resulting from its action, the Academy tried to parse what it did when questioned by some media outlets. But the fact is that, this morning, the Academy’s Managing Director Of Membership Kimberly Rouch phoned Paramont’s awards staff to say Baron Cohen’s tickets had been pulled unless he gives the Academy assurances ahead of time promising not to show up on the Red Carpet in costume and not to promote the movie on the Red Carpet. The Academy made it clear that, without those assurances, it would not issue him the tickets. So he’s banned.*
Of course, the next best thing to that publicity stunt is all the media coverage which this ban is going to generate for Baron Cohen’s film. So the Academy has decided to act like dictators about the actor playing The Dictator. Ugh.
Loosen up, people. Frankly, the Academy looks like uptight wankers with this treatment of one of the globe’s funniest comedians. The Academy merely had to say no when that proposal was presented to it. Everyone involved in the ceremony was adamantly against it on the grounds that it makes a mockery of what Hollywood considers its most prestigious event. Instead, the Academy clearly wants another overly long, ridiculously reverential show about movies no one bothered to see where the best thing about the telecast will be the comeback of popular host Billy Crystal at age 63.
The Dictator is a spoof about the “heroic story of a Middle Eastern dictator who risks his life to ensure that democracy never comes to the country he so lovingly oppressed”. Whether the fact that the 84th Academy Awards will be beamed into 200 countries had anything to do with this ban is unclear. But it is highly unusual for the Academy to pull a member’s tickets. An Oscars spokesperson acknowledged to Deadline yesterday: “We would hope that every studio knows that this is a bad idea. The Red Carpet is not about stunting.” Oh really? Then why did Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park crossdress down the Red Carpet as J-Lo and Gwyneth Paltrow in evening gowns in 2000? Or Ben Stiller appear as an Oscar presenter in full blue Avatar makeup and hair in 2010?
Deadline reported yesterday that Baron Cohen’s plan was to come dressed as The Dictator and then change into a tuxedo and attend the Oscars as planned. He wasn’t scheduled to present an award, but he was arriving at Kodak Theatre as part of the Paramount contingent. Now he can’t do even that. Paramount has a Best Picture nominee in the Martin Scorsese-directed Hugo in which Baron Cohen plays the train station inspector of the movie about an orphan in 1930s Paris.
At the 2007 Oscars, Baron Cohen was asked to be a presenter and said he would do it only if he could be in character as Borat. And Oscars’ Powers That Be said, “No way.” He didn’t attend. But this is the first time he has been officially banned from the show.
Purists feel that the Oscars is no place for such in your face promotion. The Academy hasn’t even allowed movies to be advertised during the Oscarcast, until this year. Then again, these Oscars have very little suspense because it’s a forgone conclusion that many of the winners of the marquee categories are already known and The Artist will win Best Picture. The prospect of Baron Cohen’s Red Carpet walk was the closest thing to drama.
This would not have been Baron Cohen’s first time upstaging an awards show. To promote Bruno, he flew through the air at the MTV Movie Awards and landed with his crotch in the face of Eminem, who later admitted the stunt was rehearsed. And a trailer for The Dictator certainly was one of the raciest ever allowed by the MPAA during the Super Bowl, where Baron Cohen’s character was hilariously depicted running a competitive race while and leg-shooting rivals with a starter pistol as they got close to him.