It appears that even the irreverent humor of cultural satirist Sacha Baron Cohen has its limits. In the wake of pop star Michael Jackson's death on Thursday, the decision was made -- rightly, I think -- to remove from a scene from Cohen's "Brüno" featuring La Toya Jackson. The timing of the cut was apparently very tight, as the film's L.A. premiere at Mann's Chinese Theater was scheduled for the same night.
Universal issued a terse statement on the decision: "Out of respect for the Jackson family, the filmmakers have decided to remove a small scene involving La Toya Jackson." That's really all anyone can say, I think. Cohen himself has been silent on the move; whatever his personal opinions may be, it's good to see the comic maintaining Universal's party line.
The scene in question featured Cohen in his Brüno persona interviewing Michael's sister La Toya. According to EW.com, the gay Austrian fashion reporter presses Ms. Jackson for comments about her pop star brother. Cohen's M.O. is to conduct interviews in character so that his subject remains unaware of the satirical undertones. Such is the case in the now-deleted scene, which sees Brüno attempting to extract Michael's personal phone number from Ms. Jackson's cell phone.
While this move is thoroughly unsurprising and absolutely justified, I'll be curious to see if Universal's tune changes at all once the inevitable home video release of "Brüno" approaches. Cohen is wildly popular and the film will probably do brisk business on Blu-ray/DVD, but the addition of a controversal cut like this as a bonus feature could easily send sales hurtling into the stratosphere.
Many outlets are reporting that the La Toya scene has been "permanently cut" from the film, but I can't find any official statements from Universal or Cohen to substantiate that permanence. The scene will of course be absent through "Brüno"'s theatrical run, but I remain unconvinced that the controversal scene is gone forever.
Do you think Universal made the right decision here? Are you bothered at all that Cohen hasn't issued a personal statement? Moving into the realm of pure speculation, can you see this clip arriving as a bonus feature on a home video release? Do you think we'll see it as soon as "Brüno"'s likely holiday season DVD/Blu-ray release, or do you think the clip will be held for a future "special edition"?
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