Sacha Baron Cohen finally addressed the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' decision to ban him from attending Sunday's Oscars, releasing a video and calling in to "Today" as Admiral Gen. Shabazz Aladeen, his character in the upcoming film "The Dictator," to promise "unimaginable consequences" if he is not permitted to attend.
Baron Cohen was initially invited to the Oscars because he appears in one of this year's Best Picture nominees, Martin Scorsese's "Hugo." The actor's in-character appearance was intended to generate publicity for the film, a tactic with which the Academy apparently took issue. Purists believe such promotion is inappropriate, as the Academy hasn't even allowed advertisements for films to run during the Oscar telecast until this year.
"Good morning, great Satan of America. How are you? I am fine, thank you. On behalf of the nation of Wadiya, I am outraged at being banned from the Oscars by the Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Zionists," Gen. Aladeen said in a video address posted to the Republic of Wadiya website. "While I applaud the Academy for taking away my right to free speech, I warn you that if you do not lift your sanctions and give me my tickets back by 12 p.m. on Sunday, you will face unimaginable consequences. ... On top of all of this, I paid Hilary Swank $2 million to be my date and she will not refund a penny. My Sunday calendar is now as empty as a North Korean grocery store.
"But whatever happens, I still plan to attend director Brett Ratner's afterparty, since it is impossible to catch herpes twice," he continued. "Death to the West. And good luck, Billy Crystal. You're fantastic."
At the video's conclusion, in a likely statement on what Baron Cohen believes inspired the Academy to ban him from attending in character, he concludes the video by saying, "How was that? Did I sound crazy enough?"
This morning, during a call-in interview on "Today," Cohen-as-Aladeen declared, "Normally I would be impressed by an act of cowardice by a faceless regime. But this is personal."
This isn't the first time Baron Cohen has been shunned by the Academy after declaring his intention to show up in character. In 2007, Baron Cohen was asked to be a presenter but said he would do it only if he could be in character as Borat, the fictitious Kazakh journalist he played in the blockbuster film of the same name. Oscar execs said no, and Baron Cohen did not attend the awards -- though he was not officially banned from attending the ceremony.
The actor also appeared in character as Brüno, a flamboyantly gay Austrian fashion reporter, at the 2009 MTV Movie Awards. During the ceremony, the actor, dressed as an angel with his buttocks exposed, landed in the lap of Eminem, spurring the rapper to storm out of the ceremony. It was later revealed that the stunt was rehearsed.
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