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Sacha Baron Cohen may be Oscars' big winner

By Piya Sinha-Roy

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Forget the Oscar nominees. The real winner of Sunday's Academy Awards may well end up being comic actor Sacha Baron Cohen and his next film, "The Dictator."

Together with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences who host the Oscars, Cohen and the producers of the show have been playing a cat-and-mouse game with the media over whether the British actor was banned from the red carpet if he showed up as his "Dictator" character.

Word he was barred made headlines earlier this week, and by Friday the irreverent comedian, dressed as "The Dictator," posted a video online voicing his "outrage" at Oscar organizers.

But was he ever truly prohibited from attending?

It seems unlikely because after a few days of "will he or won't he" speculation, one celebrity TV show quoted Oscar producer Brian Grazer as saying he would appear on stage at the show, which has been in planning stages for months.

Friday, another TV show cited Grazer as saying not only would Cohen appear as part of the telecast, his "Dictator" would walk the red carpet.

"VICTORY IS OURS! Today the Mighty Nation of Wadiya triumphed over the Zionist snakes of Hollywood...What I am trying to say here is that the Academy have surrendered and sent over two tickets and a parking pass! TODAY OSCAR, TOMORROW OBAMA!" the character, Admiral General Aladeen of the fictitious Middle East country, posted on the film's official Twitter feed Friday.

Academy representatives were not immediately available, rather conspicuously, for additional clarification.

The apparent publicity stunt is not uncommon for Cohen, who has mastered impromptu promotion with other characters Borat and Bruno. His mockumentary "The Dictator" is due in theaters later this year, and he needs to lure people to box offices.

Cohen's first movie, "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan" was a major hit, picking $128 million from U.S. and Canadian moviegoer pockets in 2006. His next, "Bruno" was considered a flop at box offices with only $60 million in domestic theaters.

In fact, nobody really knows what Cohen will or won't do on Oscar night, and that only serves to generate more publicity for him and his movie, as well as the Oscar telecast that annually is the second-most watched TV program in the United States.

Aladeen is Cohen's outlandish comedy character for the upcoming mockumentary film "The Dictator," about the oppressive ruler of fictional Republic of Wadiya who is hellbent on keeping democracy at bay during his reign of terror.

Cohen has a history of outrageous publicity stunts. He turned up as Kazakhstani TV reporter Borat in a wagon pulled by a "peasant woman" at the Toronto Film Festival in 2006 for the film's release.

At the MTV Video Music Awards in 2009, dressed as his gay Austrian fashion journalist Bruno, Cohen descended from the ceiling strapped in a harness and landed smack in Eminem's crotch. The rapper stormed out of the audience, only to admit later that it was all a planned stunt.

(Reporting By Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)

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