Contrary to reports, the Academy has not yet pulled Sacha Baron Cohen's Oscar tickets over his plan to appear on the red carpet in character for his next movie -- but that could still happen
According to an executive with the Academy who did not wish to be identified, AMPAS officials have been in touch with representatives for Baron Cohen since they learned of his plan to attend the Oscars in costume as the title character in "The Dictator."
Their message to British comic was clear: "Our red carpet is not for stunting."
The Academy is now waiting for a response from Baron Cohen's camp; once they receive one, they will decide whether he can use the tickets he received as a cast member of the Best Picture nominee "Hugo."
Baron Cohen would have done red carpet interviews in character – and if his past appearances as Borat and Bruno were any indication, would have used the occasion to be disruptive (and probably pretty funny).
Baron Cohen caused problems for the Oscars four years ago, when they asked him to present but he insisted on doing so only in character, as Borat. The Academy refused.
The Oscars have a history of being uncomfortable with the unpredictable. Last year, AMPAS executives were worried that Banksy, director of the nominated documentary "Exit Through the Gift Shop," would try to take the stage in disguise.
Speaking of a conversation he had with representatives for the elusive graffiti artist, Academy president Tom Sherak said, "We suggested to them that it might be a good idea that if he did win, one of them would accept in his place – that it would not be dignified for the Academy to have somebody come up wearing a monkey's head."
(Angry reps for Banksy disputed that he ever wore a monkey mask in public.)
The Academy wasn't amused in 2000, when Best Song nominees Trey Parker and Matt Stone ("South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut") showed up in knockoffs of the famous awards-show gowns worn by Jennifer Lopez and Gwyneth Paltrow.
Parker and Stone had not cleared their plan with the Academy before that show – and, they said, they got plenty of dirty looks (plus a thumbs-up from Michael Caine) as they walked the red carpet.
Baron Cohen was reportedly planning to do something similar, wearing his "Dictator" outfit for an in-character trip down the red carpet and then changing into a tux for the show.
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.