There’s no question about it. Charlie Chaplin Britannia Award For Excellence In Comedy winner Sacha Baron Cohen stole the BAFTA-LA ‘s annual Britannia Awards Saturday night with a comedy routine that had half the packed Beverly Hilton audience roaring and the other half shaking in their Jimmy Choos wondering if he had really just killed an elderly woman in a wheelchair – or was it one of his patented tasteless gags? You can see for yourself when the show airs Sunday night on BBC America but the reaction was so visceral in the room host Rob Brydon had to literally calm down the normally more sedate British crowd. Some clearly thought it was real.
At any rate, the bit made the awards gathering memorable for reasons organizers probably didn’t imagine. One BAFTA exec told me later that they were up until 3 AM just trying to clear all the legalities of Cohen’s acceptance bit which involved presenter Salma Hayek on stage with someone rolled out in a wheelchair she very believably identified as Grace Collington, an actress she said appeared with Charlie Chaplin in 1931’s City Lights at the age of five. “At 87, she’s the oldest surviving actor to have worked with Chaplin in a silent movie,” she told the audience as the woman sat there. When Cohen came up to accept his award from them, “Collington” warmly presented him with one of Chaplin’s famous canes. He then proceeded to push her off the stage and she landed face down, motionless and apparently dead on the ground. “Grace Collington is the oldest, sorry, was the oldest… I dedicate my award to her. It’s obviously a tragedy, but on the bright side what a great way to go. She’ll probably make the Oscars In Memoriam section… Anyway tonight is not about her, it’s about me,” he said as the limp body was carried out of the ballroom to rollicking laughter of the sort you rarely hear at these events. (more…)