UPDATE: Sacha Baron Cohen Coming To Oscars As 'The Dictator' After Ban Lifted: “Academy Have Surrendered”; Set-Up?


EXCLUSIVE 2ND UPDATE, 4:30 PM: I have just confirmed with Sacha Baron Cohen’s publicist that the comedian will walk on the Red Carpet in character as The Dictator and then attend the Oscars show. He’ll do it with the full approval of the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences which initially pulled his tickets and banned him from the 84th Academy Awards being held on Sunday evening.

EXCLUSIVE UPDATE 3:30 PM: Here is how Sacha Baron Cohen, in character as The Dictator, just responded to the Red Carpet and Oscars invite from the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences which earlier this week had banned him the 84th Academy Awards:

“VICTORY IS OURS! Today the Mighty Nation of Wadiya triumphed over the Zionist snakes of Hollywood. Evil and all those who made Satan their protector were vanquished and driven into the Pacific Sea. What I am trying to say here is that  the Academy have surrendered and sent over two tickets and a parking pass! TODAY OSCAR, TOMORROW OBAMA!”

EXCLUSIVE 3PM: I can confirm that the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has reversed course and now invited Sacha Baron Cohen to stage his movie publicity stunt on the Red Carpet and then attend the Oscars show. “Does Sacha need a changing room?” the Academy in a conciliatory tone asked one of the actor’s reps today.

Baron Cohen had planned to walk the Red Carpet in character as Middle Eastern General Alladeen and then change into a tuxedo to attend the awards show as himself as part of Paramount’s contingent for Best Picture contender Hugo. (Baron Cohen has a showy role in it.) Paramount, the studio behind The Dictator, tells me that Baron Cohen has not yet decided to go. Others like Oscars telecast producer Brian Grazer and Academy President Tom Sherak are telling media that the comedian is attending and even part of the show. Which begs the question whether the Academy helped orchestrate this publicity stunt with Baron Cohen and Paramount all along. After all, Sherak is a paid marketing consultant for — you guessed it — Paramount.

The studio today denied this was a set-up and claimed to me that the Academy “relented because of all the bad publicity you generated for them to lighten up”. Also Sherak at one point called to “threaten” Baron Cohen’s agency WME, according to an insider who said, “He said this was bad for the Academy and we had to stop Sacha from doing this.” And Baron Cohen’s publicist Matt Labov just explained to me: “The Academy caught wind of our idea and pulled his tickets. They went to war with us, made threats, got embarrassed, panicked, and reversed their position only after the press backlash portrayed them as stodgy. Plain and simple, that’s how it happened.”

But that doesn’t jibe with, for days now, Academy Awards insiders have been saying privately that not only is Baron Cohen coming to the show but also will be featured. Tom Sherak told Good Day LA on Thursday morning that Baron Cohen will be at the Oscars. And Grazer told USA Today: “He’s coming. In fact, he’s even part of the, there’s a piece — he’s part of the show… as himself.” (“He’s in a few of the clip packages for Hugo,” an insider tells me. “I think that’s what Grazer is referencing.” Others tell me Baron Cohen is also one of telecast’s vignettes directed by Moneyball‘s Bennett Miller featuring actors and filmmakers talking about their love of movies.)

This publicity stunt for Baron Cohen’s movie and presumably also Oscars show ratings may backfire on the Academy. Because Sacha in character publicly described, no matter how humorously, the Academy of Motion Picture “Arts & Zionists”. Not only is this a Muslim-Jew issue. But Baron Cohen also fired up the hot button issue of Hollywood and Jews. Let me just say that, because of this, Deadline Hollywood received many anti-Semitic comments about showbiz. (We deleted these comments on the grounds they were disgusting.)

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Baron Cohen was 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 told me at the time. The Academy’s Managing Director Of Membership Kimberly Rouch phoned Paramont’s awards staff to say that 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. Of course, the next best thing to that publicity stunt is all the media coverage which this ban generated for Baron Cohen’s film.

The Academy looked 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. Hollywood considers the Oscars its most prestigious event and apparently wanted another overly long, ridiculously reverential show about movies no one bothered to see where the best thing will be the comeback of 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, including the Middle East, 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 at the time: ”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?

Baron Cohen wasn’t scheduled to present an award, but he was arriving at the Kodak Theatre as part of the Paramount contingent for Best Picture nominee 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.

  1. Of course he’s now allowed. He was allowed the entire time. Do they expect us to believe that he wasn’t? That awards show needs all the ratings help in the world. Tom Sherak sure wouldn’t know how to get ratings so he’ll look to a wise SBC to make it happen!

    1. So the non-ban has been lifted. Good for all involved. Seems to me as if there was a bit of shadow-talk and back-pedaling on both sides. Cohen’s crew, at first, didn’t indicate his plan to change into a tux after the carpet. So, either they intentionally withheld the plan to cause a fuss, or there was some back-pedaling to please the Academy. Also, this makes the Academy seem as if their only qualm was with The Dictator being in the theatre, though it’s clear they also back-pedaled a bit to allow for red carpet only.

      Glad that Cohen is attending, but it’s all a little bittersweet for me. It breaks his tradition of living in character, and reveals wholesale that stunting, commercial nature of the whole deal. Overall, The Dictator feels less of a passionate commitment to Cohen than Borat or Bruno.

      1. The “Zionists” stuff is a little over the top for a movie promotion. People are dying in the Middle East every day over the Muslim-Jew friction, and Sacha is going to exploit it to sell tickets for an alleged comedy?

      1. Hooray for the guy who takes himself so seriously as an artist that he uses the method approach for sketch comedy characters and refuses to break character, even for the Oscars…

        He’s found his niche though; one that doesn’t actually require any acting ability, other than to completely overact in everything he does.

        Still, he’s making a living off making films about short film skits.
        Good for you, Sasha.
        Keep pillaging that niche that requires no talent for all it’s worth. Someone has to do it.

  2. Like it was ever in question? Will do nothing but boost ratings. Besides, how much more of a train wreck could this be, with you know producing?

  3. So it’s no longer a program dedicated to the artists who bring us great films. It’s a circus sideshow starring an idiot dressed like Khaddafi.

      1. Because you’re a simpleton. The self promotion is embarrassing. Maybe he should fall from the ceiling and kiss George Clooney on the lips. …Oh wait. He tried that already at the MTV Awards with M&M trying to promote his last movie. And only the lemmings like yourself soaked it up and the movie tanked.

    1. If he’s allowed to go to the Oscars dressed in his “Dictator Suit”, then where does it end for the rest of the people who have films to promote (in ways other than the actual award or nomination, that is)? I mean, will the guy who has a bioterrorism film out, manage to pull a stunt in the lines of putting anthrax in the “envelopes”? Actually, if he had nothing to promote, like the South Park Guys, who came in dresses, Cohen might not be opening up a can of worms, but he’s promoting his film. T

  4. This is ridiculous, the academy should not have backed down for what is just promotion in an inappropriate place. If the academy wants to show they are into comedy, nominate comedic performances and movies.

    1. That’s real hypocrisy!! The whole thing is about self-promotion, or is it just about promoting the Academy? Are you a 62-year-old white man, by any chance? At least it’s real comedy that breaks the mold that Baron Cohen is proposing, not, er, Billy-Mr.-Borscht-Belt-Altacocker-Play-It-Safe-In-Depends Crystal. Zzzzzzzz.

  5. The fact that the academy would either bend this dramatically for Cohen or even if the whole thing was a stunt has actually put me off on the oscars this year even more than I have been in previous years.

    1. I think Cohen is a showboat who – since he isn’t nominated for anything – wants to try and hijack the attention. It’s a black tie event. It’s a cultural norm. We don’t want people coming dressed as “characters” nor do we want the evening to resemble the Grammys. It’s a shame that attention that should go to various nominees, will be directed towards his antics.

      It’s also disingenuous to use the word “zionists” knowing that it can always be attributed to his “character” and not him and, as a Jew, he can probably get away with it. When Vanessa Redgrave used the word, she was pilloried at the event.

      And I thought his “Bruno” was a new low…

  6. I personally don’t like the Red Carpet as being a promotional tour. I like seeing actors coming as themselves, not their characters. If I want to see The Dictator, I will catch the movie. I would much rather hear/see SBC…that’s just me though.

      1. Now the pressure is entirely on Cohen. After all this, he had better spin on his penis or talk out of his ass to make it worthwhile. Be careful what you wish for Sasha.

  7. He has a right to show up dressed however he wants – just like we have the right to boycott his film.

    1. by this logic, i guess you are “boycotting” lots of movies and TV shows (the one you don’t want to see, right?)

  8. As I commented previously when the news first broke – nobody was going to stop SBC from doing this. Good move, Academy. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

  9. I just saw him driving and parking his car in West Hollywood. Wow- what a set of wheels! He was driving and at first from a distance it looked like he was driving some kind of Batmobile.
    (This just happened less than 10 minutes ago). He parked around the corner from where I live. I was arriving home from lunch.

  10. Can we get over this now? I love Sasha. I love the oscars, but at this point they’re both sounding like 2 ego-centric school girls debating over something completely overblown and innocuous; both parties could stand to be a bit less self-involved. Let’s move on to more important things.

  11. It’s a damn shame. The academy is now setting a precedent that people hawking whatever crap movie they have coming up can dress up in costumes, props, etc. Aren’t there enough avenues to promote people’s films without having to corrupt the 3 hours a year we reserve to celebrate the most exceptional work in film?

  12. Billy Crystal better capture the audience.

    For me, the Academy has become another Hollywood dinosaur like Kodak. You all remember Kodak…the name that used to be on the Academy Awards Theater until they thought ‘digital’ was just a Hollywood flavor of the month.

    This type of bullshit publicity with and for the Oscars just further reduces the value, integrity and creativity that the Oscars once represented.

    AMPAS has seen its better days.

    Good Luck, Dawn!

    1. Could not agree more — the academy is on a downward spiral — the moment it moves any sooner to even January will only further make the oscars integrity disappear.

      why exactly did they have to give in to the dicatator????

  13. Nikki, this has been a Sasha-fueled pseudo-controversy from the get go. Don’t you remember the Bruno butt in Eminem’s face stunt at the MTV Awards in 2009? More mock horror later revealed as a scripted stunt. Give the man credit, though – he does know the art of the hype!

  14. Anyone notice he could use the same outfit to play Prince?

    I do think at some point the Academy/ABC did use this to help boost ratings for the Red Carpet show.

  15. Now if only SBC could host the Oscars® in character, maybe the show would get some ratings. He would make even Ricky Gervais squirm!

  16. Boran makes my skin crawl. His publicity seeking stunts may be scripted, but I don’t have to watch them or him. And I won’t. The show will go on without me in the home audience.

  17. Why in the world did the Academy people give in to this clown? Was it because his film was nominated for best picture and such? I’m now hoping his film wins nothing on Sunday and this guy can just go away once and for all or he can always go back to Khazikstan and do a movie there. What meatheads the Academy turned out to be.


    He should stop while he’s ahead.
    How can he top the “indignation” video
    He is making a mockery of the Awards…as though the academy hasn’t done a pretty good job of that themselves

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