PR News is ready to give out its award for best Academy Awards PR stunt, and we're still days away from the blessed event. No matter what happens on the evening of Feb. 26—a streaker upstaging Billy Crystal, the return of Sacheen Littlefeather, a visitation from the ghost of Jack Palance—no one will deserve this award more than Sacha Baron Cohen, the writer and star of the upcoming comedy The Dictator.
Cohen, the Andy Kaufman disciple who created and inhabited the characters Ali G, Borat and Bruno, reportedly was planning on walking the red carpet on Sunday dressed as his character General Aladeen. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences sent a message to Cohen that while he was welcome at the event, the general wasn't. Soon enough, E! Online and Access Hollywood got wind of the story, and an Academy spokesperson was feeding quotes to E!, saying, "We've made our position clear to Mr. Cohen's team. We'd love to have him at the show, but the ball is in his court."
Presumably, Mr. Cohen's "team" did a fine job of leaking the news that Cohen would be appearing at the Academy Awards event in character, knowing full well that the stuffy Academy would balk at the idea. This was a top story on Feb. 23 and is building some suspense that General Aladeen will try to crash the event.
No amount of advertising could have bought this kind of awareness for The Dictator. This is a brilliant PR stunt that hasn't even happened yet. Cohen can even sit it out on Sunday night and stay home—he's already done what he had to do to boost his opening weekend.
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