This just in to the Infotainment department…
Oscars managers have threatened Sacha Baron-Cohen with a ban from this Sunday’s awards ceremony, after rumours emerged that he would dress in-character as the protagonist of his next film, The Dictator. Baron-Cohen – who plans to take his seat at the bash ostensibly to represent Hugo, in which he stars – has been working on The Dictator as a passion-project follow up to his previous cringe-athons Ali G Indahouse (2002), Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006), and Brüno (2009). That track record, combined with the actor’s well-known maverick streak, has put image-conscious event bosses on red alert over potential subversion of the ceremony’s frocks-and-tuxedos decorum.
Little has so far been revealed of The Dictator’s plot – but hints gleaned from the official website of the film’s fictional Middle Eastern setting, The Republic of Wadiya, indicate that viewers should expect a bracing satire of a tyrannical despot in the Saddam Hussein/Colonel Gaddafi mould. With recent, volatile conditions in the Middle East spawning uprisings, nuclear proliferation and violent suppression, sensitivities are running high over media portrayals of the region – and Oscar parent group the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences is keen to avoid controversy.
Coup do you think you are?
To that end, it has dangled a threat that it hopes will deter Baron-Cohen from sauntering down the red carpet in the full, ceremonial military dress, sunglasses and flowing beard favoured by his character, the Supreme Leader Shabazz Aladeen. “We don’t think it’s appropriate,” an Academy spokesman told the Hollywood Reporter. “But his tickets haven’t been pulled. We haven’t banned him. We’re just waiting to see what he’s going to do.”
Kicking off every Oscars Night, the red-carpet procession is typically used to promote any number of products, from the relevant actors’ current films to ones that they have in the pipeline – and, of course, the clothing labels, luxury-goods brands and jewellery makers that help to deck out the walking feast of conspicuous consumption. While Baron-Cohen’s leader may have jazzed up the staid and stage-managed affair with a much-needed dose of unpredictability, times may be just a tad too conservative in the entertainment world right now to tolerate a Hollywood coup d’etat.
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PM Update: Well that didn’t quite go according to plan!