If you were watching the Oscar Red Carpet arrivals on Sunday, you saw Sacha Baron Cohen’s character from The Dictator get handled roughly by two burly security guys after dumping what he said were the ashes of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il over Ryan Seacrest’s tuxedo. It looked like he was going to be carted off in handcuffs, but what happened after?
Baron Cohen wasn’t removed. He was merely hustled away from the ash-covered Seacrest, and while he was relieved of his urn, Baron Cohen continued to parade in character for a quarter mile of Red Carpet soundbites. He didn’t attend the Oscars, but that wasn’t the Academy’s choice. I’m told the Academy bent over backwards to welcome Baron Cohen. Aside from okaying his Dictator garb choice, they set aside a dressing room so that he could change into a tux after and attend the ceremony. Once he completed that lap, Baron Cohen then entered the dressing room and emerged in his tux. But he did not use the Oscar tickets; he ducked out, got in a limo and headed right over to Vanity Fair’s viewing dinner party at the Tower Hotel. He never even sat down in the auditorium.
BREAKING: Paramount Pictures has signed Sacha Baron Cohen and his Four By Two Films banner to an exclusive three-year first-look deal. Four By Two Films will be headed by Sir Todd Schulman, who worked on the Baron Cohen films The Dictator and Bruno.
Deal comes after Baron Cohen’s memorable stunt on the Oscar Red Carpet, where he dumped what he said was the ashes of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il over emcee Ryan Seacrest’s tux jacket. All this as the star and studio prepare to release the comedian’s latest film The Dictator on May 11th. They simultaneously have agreed to partner again on Baron Cohen’s next original star vehicle. As part of the arrangement, Paramount has also created a development fund for Baron Cohen to generate projects in the UK to find new talent.
Sacha Baron Cohen Punks Ryan Seacrest: ‘The Dictator’ Spills “Kim Jong Il’s Ashes” All Over Red Carpet Host! (Ryan Unamused)
BREAKING… UPDATE: (See video below) Sacha Baron Cohen just strolled onto the Red Carpet wearing The Dictator‘s full military white uniform in character as General Alladeen from the Middle East Republic of Wadiya. Flanked by two gorgeous women in military mini-skirts, Baron Cohen appears to be holding a funereal urn. (Maybe containing the ashes of the Academy’s integrity?) Ryan Seacrest of E! played along and addressed Baron Cohen as “Dictator” to which sacha responded, “Hello. Death to the West!”
Seacrest asked whom he is wearing. “I’m wearing John Galliano but the socks are from KMart. Saddam Hussein once said to me, ‘Socks are socks. Don’t waste money.” And, yes, that is a funereal urn which Sacha said contained his “dear friend” North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il. “It was his dream to come to the Oscars and to be sprinkled over the Red Carpet and over Halle Berry’s chest again.” (Too bad: Berry pulled out as an Oscars presenter today because of an injury that has her on crutches.)
With that, Baron Cohen opened the urn and ten spilled the ashes all over Seacrest’s Burberry tuxedo and shoes!
Immediately, security men (real or play-acting) pushed Baron Cohen away from Seacrest who didn’t looked amused. “It’s OK. Now if somebody asks you who you are wearing, you can say Kim Jung Il!”
Said the stunned Seacrest, who looked a mess, “I had a feeling he was up to something in some fashion or form. We’ll be right back…”
Here’s the official E! video. Text continues after the jump:
UPDATE: Sacha Baron Cohen Coming To Oscars As ‘The Dictator’ After Ban Lifted: “Academy Have Surrendered”; Set-Up?
EXCLUSIVE 2ND UPDATE, 4:30 PM: I have just confirmed with Sacha Baron Cohen’s publicist that the comedian will walk on the Red Carpet in character as The Dictator and then attend the Oscars show. He’ll do it with the full approval of the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences which initially pulled his tickets and banned him from the 84th Academy Awards being held on Sunday evening.
EXCLUSIVE UPDATE 3:30 PM: Here is how Sacha Baron Cohen, in character as The Dictator, just responded to the Red Carpet and Oscars invite from the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences which earlier this week had banned him the 84th Academy Awards:
“VICTORY IS OURS! Today the Mighty Nation of Wadiya triumphed over the Zionist snakes of Hollywood. Evil and all those who made Satan their protector were vanquished and driven into the Pacific Sea. 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!”
EXCLUSIVE 3PM: I can confirm that the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has reversed course and now invited Sacha Baron Cohen to stage his movie publicity stunt on the Red Carpet and then attend the Oscars show. “Does Sacha need a changing room?” the Academy in a conciliatory tone asked one of the actor’s reps today.
Baron Cohen had planned to walk the Red Carpet in character as Middle Eastern General Alladeen and then change into a tuxedo to attend the awards show as himself as part of Paramount’s contingent for Best Picture contender Hugo. (Baron Cohen has a showy role in it.) Paramount, the studio behind The Dictator, tells me that Baron Cohen has not yet decided to go. Others like Oscars telecast producer Brian Grazer and Academy President Tom Sherak are telling media that the comedian is attending and even part of the show. Which begs the question whether the Academy helped orchestrate this publicity stunt with Baron Cohen and Paramount all along. After all, Sherak is a paid marketing consultant for — you guessed it — Paramount.
The studio today denied this was a set-up and claimed to me that the Academy “relented because of all the bad publicity you generated for them to lighten up”. Also Sherak at one point called to “threaten” Baron Cohen’s agency WME, according to an insider who said, “He said this was bad for the Academy and we had to stop Sacha from doing this.” And Baron Cohen’s publicist Matt Labov just explained to me: “The Academy caught wind of our idea and pulled his tickets. They went to war with us, made threats, got embarrassed, panicked, and reversed their position only after the press backlash portrayed them as stodgy. Plain and simple, that’s how it happened.”
But that doesn’t jibe with, for days now, Academy Awards insiders have been saying privately that not only is Baron Cohen coming to the show but also will be featured. Tom Sherak told Good Day LA on Thursday morning that Baron Cohen will be at the Oscars. And Grazer told USA Today: “He’s coming. In fact, he’s even part of the, there’s a piece — he’s part of the show… as himself.” (“He’s in a few of the clip packages for Hugo,” an insider tells me. “I think that’s what Grazer is referencing.” Others tell me Baron Cohen is also one of telecast’s vignettes directed by Moneyball‘s Bennett Miller featuring actors and filmmakers talking about their love of movies.)
This publicity stunt for Baron Cohen’s movie and presumably also Oscars show ratings may backfire on the Academy. Because Sacha in character publicly described, no matter how humorously, the Academy of Motion Picture ”Arts & Zionists”. Not only is this a Muslim-Jew issue. But Baron Cohen also fired up the hot button issue of Hollywood and Jews. Let me just say that, because of this, Deadline Hollywood received many anti-Semitic comments about showbiz. (We deleted these comments on the grounds they were disgusting.)
Sacha Baron Cohen Calls Movie Academy “Of Arts & Zionists”
Is Academy Blinking On Oscars Ban Of Sacha Baron Cohen?
SACHA BARON COHEN BANNED FROM OSCARS: EXCLUSIVE
Will Sacha Baron Cohen’s ‘The Dictator’ Walk The Oscar Red Carpet?
EXCLUSIVE: This publicity stunt just gets better and better, and funnier and funnier. This morning Sacha Baron Cohen, posing as Middle Eastern General Alladeen from his upcoming movie The Dictator, released a video to me with his much-anticipated statement about the Oscars ban. From the Republic of Waddiya Media, it said: “I am outraged at being banned from the Oscars by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Zionists,” he said, “while I applaud the Academy for taking away my free speech.” He warned of “unimaginable consequences” if his 84th Academy Awards tickets were not returned to him by 12 pm Sunday. He also complained that he’d paid actress Hilary Swank $2 million to be his date “and she won’t give back a penny”. (That’s a reference to Swank’s paid appearance at tyrannical Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov’s birthday party.) He also takes a swipe at director Brett Ratner, who was supposed to produce the Oscars and then bowed out for bad behavior. Baron Cohen concluded by chanting, “Death to the West. And death to America. And good luck, Billy Crystal. Fantastic!” it’s safe to assume now that the moment Baron Cohen mentioned the words ‘Academy’ and ‘Zionists’ in the same sentence that he wouldn’t be allowed within 2 miles of the Academy Awards on Sunday. But betcha Billy Crystal makes it part of his opening monologue:
Sacha Baron Cohen Responds To Movie Academy “Of Arts & Zionists”: Is Academy Blinking On Oscars Ban? – EXCLUSIVE
SACHA BARON COHEN BANNED FROM OSCARS
2ND UPDATE 3:45 PM: This afternoon on The Dictator movie’s spoof website for the fictional Middle Eastern country of ‘The Republic Of Wadiya’, an explosive notice was posted. (Obviously by Sacha Baron Cohen as his title character in The Dictator.):
“Admiral General Aladeen will deliver a formal response tomorrow morning [Friday] to being banned from The Oscars by the Academy Of Motion Pictures Arts And Zionists.”
The Dictator is a spoof about the “heroic story of a Middle Eastern dictator who risks his life to ensure that democracy never comes to the country he so lovingly oppressed”. Whether the fact that the 84th Academy Awards will be beamed into 200 countries had anything to do with Baron Cohen being banned from the Oscars was unclear. But it now looks like the Jewish comedian is taking on the normally verboten subject of Hollywood and Jews and Muslims. Oy vey!
UPDATE 3:15 PM… EXCLUSIVE: Stung by bad publicity, the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences is trying to find a way out of its Oscars standoff with popular comedian Sacha Baron Cohen. Yesterday I reported exclusively that the Academy had pulled his tickets to the 84th Academy Awards show for this Sunday simply because he intended to walk the Red Carpet as the title character of his upcoming Paramount comedy The Dictator. Insiders tell me that all morning and afternoon the Academy has been internally debating whether to allow Baron Cohen on the Red Carpet in full uniform as a fictional Middle Eastern General Alladeen and then allow him to change into a tuxedo to attend the show which was his plan all along. Baron Cohen not only is an Academy member, but he’s also one of the stars of Paramount’s 11-nominated film Hugo which is a Best Picture contender. “There’s a debate inside the Academy of how to respond,” an insider tells me. “Certainly the perception is that they lack a sense of humor which got a strong reaction. They are debating what to do. But so far they have not changed their official position.”
UPDATED 5:30 PM WITH MORE DETAILS
EXCLUSIVE… BREAKING 3PM… The Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has pulled actor Sacha Baron Cohen‘s tickets from the 84th Academy Awards. This means he is banned from attending the Oscars even though he is an Academy member and one of the stars from Hugo, Paramount’s 11-nominated movie and Best Picture contender. “Unless they’re assured that nothing entertaining is going to happen on the Red Carpet, the Academy is not admitting Sacha Baron Cohen to the show,” Paramount just told me. The reason is that a proposal reached the Academy for Baron Cohen to strut the Red Carpet in full costume as his title character in the upcoming Paramount comedy The Dictator. UPDATE AT 5:30 PM: Later today, faced with all the bad publicity resulting from its action, the Academy tried to parse what it did when questioned by some media outlets. But the fact is that, this morning, the Academy’s Managing Director Of Membership Kimberly Rouch phoned Paramont’s awards staff to say Baron Cohen’s tickets had been pulled unless he gives the Academy assurances ahead of time promising not to show up on the Red Carpet in costume and not to promote the movie on the Red Carpet. The Academy made it clear that, without those assurances, it would not issue him the tickets. So he’s banned.*
Of course, the next best thing to that publicity stunt is all the media coverage which this ban is going to generate for Baron Cohen’s film. So the Academy has decided to act like dictators about the actor playing The Dictator. Ugh.
Loosen up, people. Frankly, the Academy looks like uptight wankers with this treatment of one of the globe’s funniest comedians. The Academy merely had to say no when that proposal was presented to it. Everyone involved in the ceremony was adamantly against it on the grounds that it makes a mockery of what Hollywood considers its most prestigious event. Instead, the Academy clearly wants another overly long, ridiculously reverential show about movies no one bothered to see where the best thing about the telecast will be the comeback of popular host Billy Crystal at age 63.
BREAKING: The Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences is concerned that, on Sunday, Sacha Baron Cohen will come to the Oscars and walk the Red Carpet. While ordinarily that would be fine since he’s a big international star, the Academy is dismayed that he’ll come dressed as the title character in his upcoming Paramount comedy The Dictator. That proposal has been floated with the Academy, and I’m told that everyone involved in the ceremony is adamantly against it on the grounds that it makes a mockery of what Hollywood considers its most prestigious event.
An Oscars spokesperson acknowledges the rumors but isn’t sure if it’s actually going to happen. Said the spokesperson: “We would hope that every studio knows that this is a bad idea. The Red Carpet is not about stunting.” I’ve heard his plan is to come dressed as The Dictator and then change into a tux and attend the Oscars. He’s not scheduled to present an award, but he could certainly arrive as part of the Paramount contingent. That studio has a Best Picture nominee in the Martin Scorsese-directed Hugo. Why the subterfuge? Because at 2007′s Oscars, Baron Cohen was asked to be a presenter and said he would do it only if he could be in character as Borat. And The Powers That Be said, “No way.”
But purists feel that the Oscars is no place for …
The latest hookup from Sacha Baron Cohen and director Larry Charles is Paramount’s The Dictator, which is set for release May 11, 2012. The pair behind Borat and Bruno this time turn their focus on modern politics with a tale of a Middle Eastern tyrant who has no interest in bringing democracy to his country. Here’s the first trailer for the comedy:
Sacha Baron Cohen is in talks to play bad guy Monsieur Thenardier in Les Miserables, the feature film adaptation of the musical that Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe will headline for director Tom Hooper. Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter and Eddie Redmayne also are aboard for the pic, which is set to begin next year. Matt Lucas, who is playing Thenardier in the musical’s West End production, tweeted the news of Baron Cohen joining the film, according to the British Press Association, though other reports say the Borat star is still just in negotiations for the part. Baron Cohen is plenty busy, currently appearing in Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, his The Dictator is set to bow next year, and he also has a part in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained. He also already has some musical-adaptation experience, playing Pirelli in Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd.
Martin Scorsese long ago established himself as one of the pillars of contemporary films, an auteur steeped in the history and culture of cinema who makes movies that are usually brutal, visceral and, quite often, Oscar-nominated too. His 2006 release, The Departed, finally brought him his best director Oscar, after five previous nominations left him just short, and the film also won best picture and two more awards that night. But anyone who thinks they have Scorsese pegged will be in for a shock with his latest, Hugo. It’s a children’s story, based on the best-selling novel “The Invention of Hugo Cabret,” and it’s the filmmaker’s first foray into 3D. Less surprising is that Hugo revolves around the early days of cinema, with pioneering French filmmaker Georges Méliès (Ben Kingsley) playing a prominent role. And it’s figuring regularly in Oscar buzz. So, Hugo isn’t entirely out of character for Scorsese. The director took a few minutes recently to talk to me about the influence of his young daughter on his latest film, his new-found embrace of 3-D technology, and what his Oscar wins in 2007 meant for his family.
AWARDSLINE: What were you looking for that made Hugo fit so well as your first family film?
MARTIN SCORSESE: The book by Brian Selznick is so compelling and beautifully done, particularly the illustrations. But the story, the mystery of it, really became interesting and I felt an affinity with the 12-year old boy, his isolation and ultimately his trying to find a reason for his life and its tragedies. Ultimately all of that gets resolved through the invention of cinema.
AWARDSLINE: You’d found a personal frame of reference? There are also themes of film preservation, a passion of yours, and the origins of cinema.
SCORSESE: That seemed to be like a natural. But really, it was mainly the young children that first got me involved with it. And the fact that it resolves itself with Melies and early cinema was something that kept drawing me back. Well, apparently it must have been that but I didn’t quite realize it until I was shooting and friends in my life would say ‘This is very much you.’ [Laughs] While I didn’t think of that, all my close friends felt it was totally natural.
AWARDSLINE: How long had you wanted to work in 3D?
SCORSESE: Since I saw my first 3D film back in 1953, House of Wax.
AWARDSLINE: As you watched 3D develop through the years, it’s gone from something that jumps out at you to an immersive feel. How have you felt about the evolution?
SCORSESE: I have always been fascinated by it. Even before I saw 3D films, I remember getting a packet of 10 postcards that were stereoscopic from the late 19th century and looking at them through a little device. Then there’s the wonderful View-Master which had beautiful stereo images. Not only did it immerse you in the picture, but was like a story. I was fascinated by depth and I placed such moments carefully in Hugo. There are a number of things that do pop out at you, but we tried to have our cake and eat it too. Ideally you don’t realize the effect occurred. By the time it’s over, you’re onto something else. It was about placing you inside this boy’s world; the memory of a child. If you think back at your childhood, you think about where you grew up and if you ever go back there, it’s different. It has a different feel to it from what a child sees and perceives. I thought that would be amazing in 3D plus the fact that he lives in the walls of a train station with the mechanisms of the clocks – which always fascinated me. I remember a little glass ball of a clock that my grandfather had. He gave it to me. I was always fascinated because on the back of it, you can actually see magnified; the workings of a clock and since I was a child I was fascinated by that.
AWARDSLINE: The technology certainly allowed you to see the inner workings of the clocks that are prevalent in the film.
SCORSESE: I go back to that old clock my grandfather had and I still have in the house now and I was fascinated by that. I’m not mechanically inclined but I’m fascinated by the mechanisms, and what they suggest. The stories that come out of them. The measurement of time itself. Movies being the illusion of motion, and then it is seen and it is an experience that disappears–into time. And in many cases, it has strong, profound, powerful reactions that can change your life. It certainly did mine.
AWARDSLINE: There’s a wonderful moment where an audience watching a moving picture for the first time scatters as a train rushes through the camera. In your life and career, what film innovation compares to that?
SCORSESE: Well, two things really. It was the use of 3D back in ’53. Obviously, there are two or three films better than all the others – House of Wax, Phantom of the Rue Morgue and Hitchcock’s use of it in Dial M for Murder.
AWARDSLINE: What was the other?
SCORSESE: I’m going back to theatrical experiences for this one. It was the first use of wide screen
Another piece of this year’s Oscar movie puzzle was unveiled in a big way this weekend when Paramount rolled out Martin Scorsese’s 99.9%-finished version of Hugo, an ode to the early days of cinema and the eye-popping possibilities of movies. It’s the director’s first family film, 3D film and perhaps most personal film. In an intriguing and highly unusual move, Paramount held a packed screening, with tons of invited press and bloggers included, at Regal’s Downtown LA Live theaters Saturday afternoon. Then that night they also played it at the Samuel Goldwyn Theatre in Beverly Hills for the Academy’s official membership screening. That last move was interesting because most films play either the weekend of opening or after for the Acad (although The Weinstein Co. unspooled their much-praised ode to the early days of cinema, The Artist, to an appreciative audience for its official Academy screening Sunday night).
It is extremely rare to show voters something that is still unfinished (one special effects shot was missing and the end credits are far from complete), but Hugo‘s media rollout has been different from the start. It was first unleashed in a much-less-finished form at the New York Film Festival last month as a “work in progress.” Reaction on the web was all over the place, generally favorable, but did not signal a major awards contender outside of the obvious technical nominations for the film’s stunning look. That screening in hindsight may have been a miscalculation.
This week, things began to heat up. Paramount had a couple of “tastemaker” screenings for AMPAS members a few days ago (one in the evening, one during lunchtime) where the median age range was said to be 60-plus — with 50 members reportedly at each. There were also reportedly 80 members who checked in for the Regal screening that was accompanied by a lively post-movie Q&A moderated by director Paul Thomas Anderson with Scorsese and his dream team of much-Oscared collaborators including DP Robert Richardson, production designer Dante Ferretti, editor Thelma Schoonmaker, composer Howard Shore and visual effects supervisor Rob Legato. Scorsese received an enthusiastic standing ovation when he was introduced, just as he did again today after a DGA screening for a Q&A moderated by James Cameron, who told him Hugo was a “masterpiece.” He added, “finally there is a Scorsese film I can take my kids to.” And Cameron also told Scorsese it was the best use of 3D he had seen, including his own films. At Saturday’s Regal Q&A, Legato actually credited the innovations in Avatar for making possible a lot of what Hugo was able to do. Musician Slash was among those also at the DGA screening and he later tweeted “Fantastic movie!”
BREAKING: I can confirm that tonight’s New York Film Festival mystery film is Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, the John Logan-scripted adaptation of the Brian Selznick novel Hugo Cabret. The festival revealed late last week that it would feature a film by a master filmmaker, and speculation covered everything from Clint Eastwood’s J Edgar to Stephen Daldry’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. I’m told that Richard Pena will introduce the picture at Avery Fisher Hall, but I’m not sure if Scorsese will be in the house. The film isn’t quite finished, but it will be shown in 3D, though there might be some green screen moments. Paramount releases Hugo on November 23. Scorsese hasn’t shown an unfinished film like this before (though he did once tell me that The Last Temptation Of Christ qualified as that when Universal rushed it into release because protesters were dragging crosses in front of the houses of studio higher-ups like Sid Sheinberg), and the NYFF hasn’t shown an unfinished print like this since Disney’s Beauty And The Beast in 1991. But it’s a great opportunity to build buzz on the movie, Scorsese’s first family and 3D film.
EXCLUSIVE: Rocket Pictures partners Elton John and David Furnish are launching their most ambitious movie project, one that will tell the story of John’s illustrious musical career. They are teaming with Billy Elliot scribe and playwright Lee Hall on Rocketman, which they are calling a biographical musical fantasy that will weave together John’s life and his music. Rocket Pictures’ Steve Hamilton Shaw and Furnish will produce. John will be executive producer and will play an active role in creating a film that will follow his life story from a child piano prodigy (who by age 11 won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music) to a young man who rebelled against his strict upbringing, wore outrageous costumes and became a global icon who teamed with songwriter Bernie Taupin to sell more records that just about any musical artist of his era.
Rocketman will mark the second collaboration for John and Hall. When Hall adapted the 2000 feature Billy Elliot for the West End, John wrote the score for a production that moved to Broadway and won the Tony Award for Best Musical. They’re planning an inventive way to cover John’s life and career: One device will be to feature choreographed sequences using John’s biggest hit songs. Those tunes will be part of the movie package and will drive a story that will cover the rough spots in John’s journey of self-discovery. …
After the Hitfix website reported that Mike Myers had signed a deal to do a fourth Austin Powers film, other websites are running wild with it. What’s really going on? Well, I wouldn’t necessarily dress for the premiere just yet. No deal has yet been signed, and top New Line brass are surprised the whole thing has reared up after they made Myers an offer six months to a year ago, and hear nothing. Forgive New Line for being skeptical: The film company thought it was well on the way to another Austin Powers installment when it made a deal in 2008 with Myers to collaborate with Mike McCullers for a Dr. Evil film that was to focus on his relationship with son Scotty (Seth Green), meant to be an unabashed homage to Myers’ father, whose Brit influence basically prodded Myers to create the British agent Austin Powers character in the first place. Then, Myers’ screen creation, The Love Guru, opened to $13 million in June 2008 against the nearly $40 million that Steve Carell’s Get Smart grossed with Steve Carell. Myers went AWOL, surfacing only for a small role in Inglourious Basterds. McCullers never moved forward with the script.
Paramount Pictures has released an early image of Sacha Baron Cohen as The Dictator, the comedy in which he plays the dual roles of a ruthless dictator who heads to the U.S. for a meeting at the United Nations and finds that his number two has replaced him with an unsuspecting sheepherder lookalike. As the dictator wanders the city, he meets the owner of an organic food store (Anna Faris) who gives him a different perspective on the idea of oppression. Baron Cohen’s Borat and Bruno director Larry Charles is helming, and Paramount has set a May 11, 2012 worldwide release date. Scripted by former Seinfeld scribes Alec Berg, Jeff Schaffer and David Mandel, The Dictator is being produced by Scott Rudin, Baron Cohen and the scribes.
I saw a report that claimed Baron Cohen was playing Saddam Hussein, a bit of confusion because the filmmakers have said the film was inspired by Zabibh and The King, which was written by the late Iraqi strongman. But that’s a misnomer and I think Baron Cohen’s hairstyle is more Seinfeld’s Kramer than Hussein.
EXCLUSIVE: Anna Faris has been offered and is in negotiations for the female lead in The Dictator, the Paramount Pictures comedy that has Sacha Baron Cohen starring in dual roles. Baron Cohen’s Borat and Bruno director Larry Charles is helming, and Paramount has set a May 11, 2012 worldwide release date. Scripted by former Seinfeld scribes Alec Berg, Jeff Schaffer and David Mandel, The Dictator is being produced by Scott Rudin, Baron Cohen and the scribes.
Baron Cohen plays a ruthless dictator who heads to the U.S. for a meeting at the United Nations and finds that his number two has replaced him with an unsuspecting sheepherder lookalike. As the dictator wanders the city, he meets the owner of an organic food store. That’s the role Faris is negotiating. She turns around his dictatorial thinking, and there’s a little romance in it as well. Faris just sold a stalker pitch starring vehicle to Paramount, and she just wrapped the New Regency comedy What’s Your Number. She’s repped by Gersh and Anonymous Content’s Doug Wald. As for an official logline, Paramount released this one recently: “The film tells the heroic story of a dictator who risked his life to ensure that democracy would never come to the country he so lovingly oppressed. It is inspired by the best selling novel, Zabibah and The King, by Saddam Hussein.”
The Dictator was one of the more electric material sales of 2011. Four studios chased …
Graham King’s GK Films has hired Focus Features exec Kahli Small to be executive vice president of production and development. She will report directly to King and will work out of GK’s Santa Monica headquarters. Kahli is a seven-year vet of Focus Features and most recently held the title of executive vice president of production and development. Her projects have included the Oscar-nominated Harvey Milk biopic Milk, the David Cronenberg-directed Viggo Mortensen starrer Eastern Promises, and The American, which starred George Clooney. Before Focus, she was head of production at Key Entertainment, and was an exec at MGM.
“Her reputation in the industry and track record for success are exactly the qualities that we are looking for in executives as we expand our company,” King said in a statement. The appointment comes at a time when GK (run by King and partner Tim Headington) are gearing up on several major projects. They include a movie adaptation of the hit stage musical Jersey Boys, the untitled biopic of Queen frontman Freddie Mercury that has a script by Peter Morgan and Sacha Baron Cohen starring, and a reboot of Tomb Raider. GK is about to start production on the Tim Burton-directed Johnny Depp starrer Dark Shadows at Warner Bros, and is in post production on the Martin Scorsese-directed 3D film Hugo Cabret, which Paramount releases Nov. 23. GK has also wrapped the William Monahan-directed London Boulevard with Colin Farrell and Keira Knightley and …