Remember when Sacha Baron Cohen managed to land right in Eminem’s lap at the MTV movie awards? Cohen was in character as Austrian Bruno at the time, and he flew through the air on cables dressed as an angel. He ended up flipping over and lowering onto Eminem’s seat, his bare ass cheeks and crotch right in Eminem’s face. Em left all pissed off, just as could be expected, and then later tried to play it off like he knew about the stunt ahead of time. Well, Oscar night producers wanted to avoid a similar scenario with Director James Cameron. Cohen had a whole skit planned out with Ben Stiller in which he would have been dressed like a female Navii from Avatar who accused Cameron of getting her pregnant with his love child. Producers were afraid of offending Cameron and decided to scrap it, though. Cohen’s rep said that the segment was canned due to “creative differences,” but insiders say that an Oscar Producer who worked with Cameron realized that the guy didn’t have the sense of humor needed to graciously accept that he was being mocked.
An insider familiar with the Oscar telecast tells Vulture that an Avatar sketch planned by Baron Cohen and Ben Stiller was nixed yesterday by show producer Bill Mechanic, who worried that Cameron would be so offended by it that he might even walk out of the Oscar broadcast on live TV.
So what skit could possibly so incense the HMFIC?
Our insider informs us that Baron Cohen planned to appear onstage as a blue-skinned, female Na’vi, with Stiller translating “her” interplanetary speech. As the skit went on, though, it would become clear that Stiller wasn’t translating properly, because Cohen would grow ever more upset. At its climax, an infuriated Baron Cohen would pull open “her” evening gown to reveal that s/he was pregnant, knocked up with Cameron’s love child, and would go on to confront her baby daddy as if s/he were on Jerry Springer.
Mechanic, now both a producer of motion pictures and of this year’s Oscar telecast, was head of Twentieth Century Fox when Cameron’s Titanic famously went massively over budget and over schedule, so he’s well acquainted with Cameron’s sense of humor — or lack of it. “Let’s just say that Cameron isn’t known to be, shall we say, ‘self-deprecating,’” explained one insider familiar with the decision to cut the sketch.
Academy spokesperson Toni Thompson would only confirm that Baron Cohen was no longer presenting, but Baron Cohen’s spokesman, Matt Labov, tells Vulture that “I hate to use the term, because it’s so ubiquitous, but there were ‘creative differences.’ Nothing acrimonious, but both sides felt that since they couldn’t agree, [Cohen] might as well remain in London.” (Calls to Mechanic’s office were not returned at deadline.)
That’s a shame as it would have added some obnoxious levity to the show. I have to say that last year wasn’t half bad, though, and that attempts to get the Oscars to lighten up and be more entertaining really worked. The skits were fun and I loved that they brought the stage and the audience closer together. There were also short touching tributes from fellow actors to each of the nominees. Overall they did a great job. I’m hoping that they’re going for a similar less formal format this year and that they keep up the momentum throughout the ceremony. Oh and they can always make it a little shorter!