By now, you’ve probably already heard about what a bad boy Sacha Baron Cohen has been with his latest film, Bruno, which is so controversial that, on first pass, the MPAA mentioned the dreaded “NC-17″ rating:
Universal’s “Bruno,” the widely anticipated Sacha Baron Cohen docu-comedy opening in July, has been slapped with an NC-17 rating on its first submission to the Motion Picture Association of America because of numerous sexual scenes that the ratings board considers over the line, according to the studio releasing the film.
Among the objectionable scenes is one in which Bruno — a gay Austrian fashionista played by Baron Cohen — appears to have anal sex with a man on camera. In another, the actor goes on a hunting trip and sneaks naked into the tent of one of the fellow hunters, an unsuspecting non-actor . . . .
With “Bruno,” Baron Cohen apparently goes even further [than "Borat" did], drawing a cutting comic edge that challenges homophobia and racism by embracing both. His method is a kind of cinema verite, drawing unsuspecting bystanders into outrageous situations, or provoking them to say outrageous things, and orchestrating NC-17 rated situations.
But Cohen needs to deliver an R-rated film to Universal, which will not consider releasing an NC-17 “Bruno,” according to an executive there.
The difference between an R and an NC-17 in terms of financial reward is vast. “Borat,” which cost a piddling $18 million to make, took in $261 million in worldwide box office. Universal paid $42 million for the English-language rights to “Bruno,” but will spend far more than that in marketing the film. Major Hollywood studios almost never release films with NC-17 ratings.
Oh, please. This is only a damn publicity stunt. Studios learned their lesson with the 1995 theatrical release of Showgirls, and this faux controversy is just part of the plan for Bruno. Baron Cohen will clean things up and earn an R-rating with no problem, but, in the meantime, just look at all that free publicity! Smart guy, really.