Comedy actor Sacha Baron Cohen, ahead of the cinematic release of his latest film The Dictator, is going around the world on talkshows to promote his latest potential blockbuster as most actors normally do, but in the nature of the English star, he likes to appear ‘in character’, as previously witnessed at The Oscars earlier this year. However, his latest creation ‘General Aladeen’ might not get to have much of that treatment if Baron Cohen is to do a show on the BBC, after they banned him from appearing on any of the corporation’s TV or radio shows as his fictional dictator.
The movie, which is more scripted and ‘cinematic’ than past controversial ‘mockumentaries’ such as Borat and Bruno, stars Baron Cohen as General Aladeen, the dictator of the fictitious ‘Republic of Wadiya’, who ‘risks his life to ensure that democracy will never come to the country he so lovingly oppressed’. It is currently scheduled for a premiere on 11 May (USA), and release on 16 May (worldwide).
For this reason of proximity to release, a number of chatshows such as The Graham Norton Show, Newsnight, The Andrew Marr Show, and The One Show, were said to be in discussions to bring Sacha Baron Cohen onto their show in-character, but have all reportedly backed down based on requests from BBC head offices, a move which carried over to radio stations BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio 4 making similar refusals to feature him, although no clear reason has yet been given for the decision.
A source of the actor said of the BBC: “Everyone came back and said they were declining to have him in character on air. Sacha suspects it’s a case of a sense of humour bypass.”
Meanwhile, Baron Cohen got back into costume to complain about the broadcaster, with ‘General Aladeen’ adding: “While I am a huge admirer of state-sponsored censorship, the BBC banning me from their meagre channels is an outrage. Why are they victimising little old me?”
A BBC spokesman has responded by stating on behalf of the TV and radio stations involved: “Our chatshows thrive on the spontaneous banter between guests and the presenter, something you don’t get when people come on as characters. We’d love to have Sacha on as himself.”
While it is not the first time this year that Baron Cohen’s fourth persona has been barred from entry, the much-publicised arguments ahead of The Oscars ended with a compromise that saw General Aladeen spill ‘Kim Jong-il’s ashes’ on E!’s red carpet reporter Ryan Seacrest. With past incidents in mind, what are the chances of the BBC backing down on their current refusal?