Sacha Baron Cohen has never been one to avoid controversy; in fact, he seems to crave it. Cohen's turns as Kazakh journalist "Borat" and gay Austrian fashion reporter "Bruno" (both characters from his HBO series "Da Ali G Show") drew criticism from various groups, as well as somewhere in the vicinity of 10,000 lawsuits (OK, that's a slight exaggeration). But Cohen's latest film could prove to be his most controversial yet.
Paramount Pictures announced today that Cohen will play the title character in "The Dictator," a comedy based on the 2000 novel "Zabibah and the King" by Saddam Hussein. Yes, former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein (though, to be honest, ghostwriters probably penned it under orders from the ruler). According to the press release, the book "tells the heroic story of a dictator who risked his life to ensure that democracy would never come to the country he so lovingly oppressed." Great stuff.
While the film is set in the 7th or 8th century and thus doesn't tell the outright story of Saddam's regime, the main character's name is Hussein and the allegorical parallels to the dictator's own life (as well as his dealings with the U.S.) are unmistakable. In essence, that means that Cohen will be playing a version of Hussein himself, one of the most reviled rulers of modern times -- though it's a safe bet the film won't exactly paint him in the most flattering of lights.
Adding to our certainty that the film will a) rip on Saddam mercilessly and b) stir up controversy is the fact that Paramount has also announced that Cohen is co-writing the script AND reteaming with "Borat" director Larry Charles for the flick. "The Dictator" is set to march into theaters May 11, 2012.
Are you excited for "The Dictator"? And do you think Cohen is a good choice for the lead?