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Vulture Exclusive: To Protect James Cameron’s Feelings, Sacha Baron Cohen’s Avatar Sketch Is Cut From Oscar Telecast

Just a week ago, Sacha Baron Cohen — the alter ego of Borat and Brüno — was announced as an Oscar presenter by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Now, suddenly, Baron Cohen has vanished from that list. Why is he gone from the show? Because one of the broadcast's producers was scared he might offend gazillionaire Best Director nominee James Cameron.

An insider familiar with the Oscar telecast tells Vulture that an Avatar sketch planned by Baron Cohen and Ben Stiller was nixed yesterday by show producer Bill Mechanic, who worried that Cameron would be so offended by it that he might even walk out of the Oscar broadcast on live TV.

So what skit could possibly so incense the HMFIC?

Our insider informs us that Baron Cohen planned to appear onstage as a blue-skinned, female Na’vi, with Stiller translating “her” interplanetary speech. As the skit went on, though, it would become clear that Stiller wasn’t translating properly, because Cohen would grow ever more upset. At its climax, an infuriated Baron Cohen would pull open “her” evening gown to reveal that s/he was pregnant, knocked up with Cameron’s love child, and would go on to confront her baby daddy as if s/he were on Jerry Springer.

Mechanic, now both a producer of motion pictures and of this year’s Oscar telecast, was head of Twentieth Century Fox when Cameron’s Titanic famously went massively over budget and over schedule, so he’s well acquainted with Cameron’s sense of humor — or lack of it. “Let’s just say that Cameron isn’t known to be, shall we say, ‘self-deprecating,’” explained one insider familiar with the decision to cut the sketch.

Academy spokesperson Toni Thompson would only confirm that Baron Cohen was no longer presenting, but Baron Cohen’s spokesman, Matt Labov, tells Vulture that “I hate to use the term, because it's so ubiquitous, but there were ‘creative differences.’ Nothing acrimonious, but both sides felt that since they couldn’t agree, [Cohen] might as well remain in London.” (Calls to Mechanic's office were not returned at deadline.)

So in case you’re ranking celebrity senses of humor at home, you can now safely put Cameron below Eminem.

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Photo: Charley Gallay/Getty Images for PCA