Sacha Baron Cohen BAFTA Bit Causes Controversy

This time last year, it was Daniel Day-Lewis and an empty chair. Last night at the BAFTA-LA Britannia Awards, Sacha Baron Cohen kicked it up a notch with the help of an elderly actress in a wheelchair. What’s next – Eddie Izzard and an electric chair?

Just as British Abe’s riff on Clint Eastwood proved impossible to beat at the podium during 2012 film awards season, Cohen’s hilarious prank of the audience with the help of an elderly co-conspirator is going to be very hard to top this year. Accepting the Charlie Chaplin Britannia Award for Excellence in Comedy, the Borat/Bruno/Dictator star took receipt of a jerry-rigged cane from the woman, started doing his best “Little Tramp” imitation and then faux-tripped to send her rolling off the front of the stage. From a report by Deadline’s Pete Hammond:

The routine had half the packed Beverly Hilton audience roaring and the other half shaking in their Jimmy Choos wondering if he had really just killed an elderly woman in a wheelchair – or was it one of his patented tasteless gags?… The reaction was so visceral in the room host Rob Brydon had to literally calm down the normally more sedate British crowd. Some clearly thought it was real.

BBC America, which will broadcast Saturday’s event tonight at 9 p.m., has a sudden DVR ratings bonanza on its hands. Meanwhile, Cohen here accomplished what Ricky Gervais would have had he been allowed that one year to come out and greet the Golden Globes crowd dressed as Hitler.

Extra points to the first outlet that tracks down the BAFTA event’s purported City Lights child star (“Grace Collington”, who we are guessing was a made-up professional stuntwoman). It’s also unclear at this point whether Salma Hayek, who accompanied the solemnly introduced octogenarian on stage, was in on the joke.

A joke that included, as the limp Collington was being carried away, some golden skewering by Cohen of the pomposity of awards shows and self-congratulatory acceptance speeches:

“This is obviously a tragedy. She has upstaged me. But on the bright side, what a great way to go, giving an award to me. Thus she’ll probably make the Oscars In Memoriam section… Anyway tonight is not about her, it’s about me.”

P.S. We like to imagine the late Charlie Chaplin laughing heartily last night, from the Great Beyond, at this great bit of slapstick. And ultimately, since Cohen was accepting an award named in Chaplin’s honor, that’s the only reaction that counts.

[Photo of Cohen as Bruno at the 2009 MTV Movie Awards: Jaguar PS/]

Previously on Mediabistro:
Daniel Day-Lewis Stars in Hilarious Clint Eastwood-Empty Chair Sequel
Sacha Baron Cohen Helps Set Single-Day Web Traffic Record