Sacha Baron Cohen takes his Oscars war to the media
Sacha Baron Cohen's plan to show up at Sunday's Oscar ceremony in character as Adm. Gen. Shabazz Aladeen, the focus of his upcoming movie "The Dictator," may have been scuttled by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, but Cohen (or at least his character) isn't taking the slight quietly. He's taking the fight to the media.
Cohen called into NBC's "Today" show on Friday morning, in character as Aladeen, upset about being banned from the Oscars red carpet. (Cohen is still welcome to attend, but only as himself.)
Playing along, hosts Ann Curry and Carl Quintanilla asked the dictator about the red carpet ban. Aladeen responded that he had issued an ultimatum to the academy, "They have until midday on Sunday to give me my tickets back. If they do not, they will see and face unforeseen and unimaginable consequences."
When asked what those unimaginable consequences might be, Aladeen responded, "Let's just say oil prices might be raised."
On Wednesday, academy President Tom Sherak told The Times that he had warned Paramount Pictures, the studio distributing "The Dictator," that Cohen showing up in character was "a bad thing to do."
Curry made some effort to get Cohen to break character, asking Aladeen what he thought of Cohen's performance in the Oscar-nominated film "Hugo," but Aladeen wouldn't bite, responding that he hadn't heard of "Hugo" and that the only films shown in his country were those written by and starring himself. "Hugo" was also distributed by Paramount.
He also tried to keep the anchors off-balance by throwing out questions such as "How is your eunuch, Al Roker?"
The joking ultimatum against the academy was repeated from a short video Cohen released to Deadline.com in which Aladeen addressed the academy as the "Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Zionists."
It's still unclear whether or not Cohen will show up at the Oscars on Sunday at all, or if he really intends to retaliate in some way against the academy. But as a way of drumming up interest in his upcoming movie in May, he's got the wheels of the promotion machine cranking in high gear already.
-- Patrick Kevin Day
Photo: Sacha Baron Cohen at the Golden Globe Awards. Credit: Hollywood Foreign Press Assn.