Yesterday, as the news was pouring in about the death of Michael Jackson by cardiac arrest at the age of 50, I was flipping between MSNBC, Fox News and CNN, scanning Twitter and on the phone with people who call me when pop culture figures die.
As I absorbed the news, I completely forgot that Brüno (July 10th state-side) has a La Toya Jackson scene in it, where the Sacha Baron Cohen character asks La Toya for her brother’s number then mocks his voice and glove. Brüno eventually cons her out of her Blackberry – after serving her sushi on a naked Mexican – only to read MJ’s number out loud (in German, and it’s a 555 number). This sends La Toya stomping out of the interview.
But after Jackson’s death on Thursday, the studio and filmmakers decided to remove the scene for the premiere screening out of sensitivity to the Jackson family. The film now cuts directly from Baron Cohen’s gonzo interview with Paula Abdul to a focus-group for his faux reality show.
Still, because many critics attended those earlier showings, its content could make its way into reviews. Indeed, removing the scene in a way calls more attention to it, though the studio clearly wanted to avoid even the perception of poor taste at any cost.
“We decided to take it out for tonight, and we’ll reassess before the release whether to keep it out,” said director Larry Charles at the premiere’s afterparty. A spokesperson for Universal also confirmed that it had not come to any decision on future showings.
Several copies of the film already exist, as the film has begun press and test audience screenings in a few US cities, but it’s unclear if more prints have already been rolled out. Cutting a scene out of a movie is all good, snipping fun until it starts costing hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on interns rooting out the particular reel of the film and trimming some negative. Alternatively, though not cheaper by a long shot, Uni could replace only the reel of film with the scene in question on it, also meaning hefty budgets of new printing costs.
All this after reports that Brüno was already edited so it wouldn’t offend the “Hollywood Gay community.”
I can understand the sentiment of not wanting to pick the scab of the sudden death of a pop icon, or wanting to give the man’s family a few weeks without Jacksons being the punchline in this difficult time. However, if the cut really is what Risky Biz Blog claims above – from Abdul to the focus group – then no one will know that when I call Brad Pitt “Bradolf Pittler” that I’m stealing from Sacha Baron Cohen.