The mystery of Sacha Baron Cohen's plans for the Oscars has deepened, with the Academy going on the record to deny an online report that the comic actor has had his tickets for Hollywood's biggest event yanked.
"We haven't banned him," an Academy spokesperson tells The Hollywood Reporter. "We're just waiting to hear what he's going to do."
Still, the Academy is making it clear that Cohen is not welcome to use the red carpet as a platform for a promotional stunt for his upcoming movie The Dictator, and other sources say the threat of booting him became more substantial on Wednesday.
THR first reported Tuesday that the actor, invited to attend the Oscars as a castmember of best picture nominee Hugo, was hatching a plan to arrive at the event dressed as his Dictator character, a crass totalitarian leader hellbent on keeping democracy out of his country.
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THR's story prompted the Academy to notify Cohen's reps and Paramount, the studio behind both Hugo and Dictator, that it would like to know exactly what Cohen has planned. "We don't think it's appropriate," the Academy spokesman tells THR of the prospect of Cohen "hijacking" the red carpet to plug his movie. "But his tickets haven't been pulled. We're waiting to hear back."
A Paramount spokesperson did not immediately return a call seeking comment. (UPDATE: Paramount declined to comment.) Cohen's publicist has not returned an email seeking comment.
Cohen has a history of using awards shows and other big events to hype his movies. To help launch Borat in 2006, Cohen arrived at the Toronto International Film Festival dressed up as his TV journalist alter ego, riding a wagon pulled by "Kazakhstani peasant women." At the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, he came as gay fashionista Bruno (to promote Bruno).
The Academy is careful to exclude studio-specific film promotion from its annual Oscars telecast (it only recently allowed movie ads to run during commercial breaks), so Cohen's plans are being taken very seriously.