Hair Ball of Day

Sacha Baron Cohen (and Beard) Win Over the Academy

I am torn on my views of Sacha Baron Cohen. Part of me thinks he is refreshing and hilarious and the other half of me thinks he is just a unoriginal bore. Please enlighten me with your thoughts and help me get down off the fence.

LOS ANGELES — The latest news from the Republic of Wadiya is that its dictator – er, leader – er, beloved homeland father – will attend the Oscars. After some publicity-inducing back-and-forth, the powers-that be at the Academy have decided to allow Sacha Baron Cohen to come as Shabazz Aladeen, the bushy-bearded character from his new movie, “The Dictator.”

We’re thrilled to have him,” Brian Grazer, one of the producers of the Oscars, told “Extra,” “and he’ll be on the red carpet dressed as the Dictator.”

Mr. Baron Cohen responded via a ticker on the Web site for the fictional Republic of Wadiya. “Victory is ours!” it read. “Today the Mighty Nation of Wadiya triumphed over the Zionist snakes of Hollywood. Evil and all those who made Satan their protector were vanquished and driven into the Pacific Sea. What I am trying to say here is that the Academy have surrendered and sent over two tickets and a parking pass! Today Oscar, tomorrow Obama!”

Ben Kingsley, who played opposite Mr. Baron Cohen in “Hugo” and “The Dictator,” will not be at the Oscars – he’ll be in Oslo for the premiere of “Hugo” – but praised his co-star. They saw each other on Friday, to do some pick-up shots for “The Dictator,” due May 11.

“He’s in great form,” Mr. Kingsley reported at a party on Friday night. “Very intelligent, lovely man.”

Was he surprised at the brouhaha Mr. Baron Cohen was able to stir up?

“Not remotely,” Mr. Kingsley said. “It’s very imaginative, very clever.”

We’ll say: given all the hoopla, it is a stroke of promotional genius on par with having a puppy show up at an Oscar party.


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