Oscar organizers are hitting back at reports that they've banned mockumentary star Sacha Baron Cohen from attending Sunday's 84th Annual Academy Awards. But his bearded alter ego, "The Dictator," is another story.
Not quite. But there is a catch: Oscar organizers say the trail-blazing mockumentary star is not allowed to attend the Hollywood prize-giving dressed as the lead character from his upcoming film.
The Interwebs went wild Wednesday, as dish that the Borat star was prohibited from attending this weekend's 84th Academy Awards made headlines. Showrunners reportedly pulled the plug on Sacha's invite after news that he was planning to walk the red carpet in character as a Saddam Hussein-inspired leader emerged online.
Cohen plays a bearded, Middle Eastern totalitarian ruler in the hotly-anticipated summer comedy The Dictator. Not exactly the image the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences likes to promote on the industry's biggest night.
"Unless they're assured that nothing entertaining is going to happen on the red carpet, the Academy is not admitting Sacha Baron Cohen to the show," an insider told Deadline Hollywood.
Academy spokesfolks tell a different story.
"We have not banned him. We're just waiting to hear what he's going to do," a rep told The Hollywood Reporter.
The Academy has apparently made it clear that Sacha "is not welcome to use the red carpet as a platform for a promotional stunt." Deadline snoopsters note that Oscar organizers are unanimously against Cohen's proposed Dictator gag because it "makes a mockery of what Hollywood considers its most prestigious event."
"We don't think it's appropriate. But his tickets haven't been pulled. We're waiting to hear back. We haven't banned him," the spokesperson added.
The 40-year-old Golden Globe winner is the undisputed master of publicity stunts.
We all remember the Eminem bum-in-face stunt Cohen orchestrated when he guest-starred as Austrian fashionista Bruno at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards. In 2007, Cohen asked to present an Academy Award and insisted to be dressed as his Golden Globe-winning alter ego, Borat.
Yeah, that didn't get past the Academy, either.
The Wrap writes:
"Using an Oscar appearance to promote an upcoming film is not, of course, completely unknown. This year's host, Billy Crystal, did just that in 1991 when he made his entrance on a horse before the release of City Slickers and Ben Stiller appeared onstage in his Starsky and Hutch costume in 2004. But those were onstage, where it was sanctioned and controlled. The red carpet is something else -- out there, the Academy doesn't like wild cards."
Interestingly enough, Cohen helps make up the Academy's all-important voting panel. He's also part of the ensemble cast of Martin Scorsese's 3D family flick Hugo. The movie heads into this year's ceremony with a leading 11 nominations.