Sacha Baron Cohen Wants to Attend Oscars as 'The Dictator'; Will the Academy Let Him? (Exclusive)
Sacha Baron Cohen could be on the verge of pulling off his biggest stunt yet — and in the biggest spotlight of the year.
Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that the actor wants to attend the Academy Awards on Feb. 26 as his character in The Dictator, his latest raunchy comedy set for release by Paramount on May 11. The question is whether the Academy will veto Cohen’s attempt to add a touch of crass spectacle to the regal affair.
Sources say Cohen, who was invited to attend the Oscars as part of the cast of best picture nominee Hugo, has informed Paramount — the studio behind both Hugo and Dictator — of his wishes. Paramount and the Academy declined comment, but an AMPAS source says the show’s producers have not been informed of any Cohen plans.
The 40-year-old British actor, who rose to fame as the creator and star of HBO’s Da Ali G Show, has a history of using awards shows and other big events to hype his movies. To help launch his mockumentary Borat in 2006, Cohen arrived at the Toronto International Film Festival dressed up as his TV journalist alter ego, riding a wagon pulled by “Kazakhstani peasant women.” At the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, he came as gay fashionista Bruno (to promote Bruno) and was later suspended over the crowd and lowered atop Eminem, who promptly stormed out (it was later revealed the rapper was in on the joke).
The Oscars would take Cohen’s shtick to a new level, exposing his Dictator character — a sex-crazed Gaddafi-meets-Hussein ruler who fights to stop democracy from coming to his country — to hundreds of millions of viewers around the world.
But the stunt would potentially distract press attention from the night’s nominees, and executives at rival studios — most of whom are attending — might scoff at the promotional effort.
The Academy is careful to exclude studio-specific film promotion from its annual Oscars telecast (it only recently allowed movie ads to run during commercial breaks), so Cohen's stunt would likely be limited to the pre-show (it's unclear whether a similar policy applies there), unless he makes an argument that the Academy can't prohibit him from wearing what he wants to the show.
As an interesting side-note, Cohen was floated as a possible Oscars host two years ago but was apparently vetoed by Academy leadership due to concerns over his button-pushing comedy.
Cohen’s reps also declined comment.