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UPDATE: Contrary to an earlier online report, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences hasn't "banned" Sacha Baron Cohen from attending the Oscars in anticipation of the actor making an appearance on the red carpet as "The Dictator," but the organization has made it clear that such publicity stunt shenanigans aren't welcome.
"We haven't banned him," an Academy spokesperson told The Hollywood Reporter. "We're just waiting to hear what he's going to do."
Deadline first reported that the "Hugo" star had been banned from attending the ceremony for fear that he would be using the red carpet as a platform to promote his upcoming comedy about a crass totalitarian leader hellbent on keeping democracy out of his country.
"We don't think it's appropriate," the Academy spokesman said of the prospect of Cohen "hijacking" the red carpet to plug his movie. "But his tickets haven't been pulled. We're waiting to hear back."
Whether Cohen is banned or not, this kind of "quality control" definitely counts as another sign that the Academy is hoping for a nice, safe, uncontroversial ceremony, a desire that was made apparent with bringing back the entertaining but rather vanilla Billy Crystal as host after Eddie Murphy dropped out of the gig following Brett Ratner's exit as one of the show's producers.
We're waiting to see what Sacha Baron Cohen has to say about this ... or, rather, what he does about this.
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In his various guises as Ali G., Brüno and Borat, comedian Sacha Baron Cohen has confused and annoyed people from Newt Gingrich to the entire country of Kazakhstan.
Remember how well his appearance at the MTV Movie Awards as Brüno went over? Yeah. We do, too.
Now rumor has it that he's planning to debut his newest character, General Aladeen from the upcoming comedy "The Dictator," during the Oscars. But will the Academy stand for it, or will they play him off stage?
Cohen will be at the Oscars as part of the "Hugo" crew, which is nominated for Best Picture. Martin Scorsese is also up for a little gold man, and in total, the film has 11 nominations under its belt. (Cohen plays the station inspector who, in one scene, rather memorably shares a bath with his Doberman).
Both "Hugo" and "The Dictator" are distributed by Paramount, and according to The Hollywood Reporter, the actor has expressed his desire to the studio. However, the trade magazine's source at the Academy reports "the show's producers have not been informed of any Cohen plans." Sounds like they have been now!
Deadline is reporting that their source says, "We would hope that every studio knows that this is a bad idea. The Red Carpet is not about stunting." (It's not clear if Cohen would like to prank the red carpet or appear as Aladeen at the ceremony as well).
And what a stunt it would be. The politically charged satire positions General Aladeen alongside Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi and Kim Jong-il as one of the "great" dictators, and in one spot shows him riding a camel down Fifth Avenue and referring to America as "the birthplace of AIDS."
Looks like "The Dictator" will be an equal opportunity offender, but will it soar like "Borat" or sink like "Brüno?" And will that have anything to do with this rumored appearance at the Oscars? Paramount hasn't released an official statement yet, but since the film is opening in May, this would be a prime time for such an eyeball-catching caper.
Let's forget about the Academy, though. What would Marty say?
Originally published on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012 at 11:01 a.m. ET.