When Sacha Baron Cohen first approached the Oscars through Bill Mechanic, the former chairman of the Academy, the plan was to have Baron Cohen perform with the artists he would be impersonating on the show. Cohen would then interview those artists about their interviews with the British comedian, later revealing that he was actually just an Oscar bore.
“The plan was to have Sacha Baron Cohen start walking around on stage, and then I would ambush the songs, and then he would try to ask all the questions,” Mechanic said. (Despite his not being a dummy, some of them did stay and spoke with Baron Cohen, including the Bono interview that landed him in hot water.)
Mechanic was relatively candid about the plan, but not everyone was convinced. He recalled trying to convince one of the most respected Oscar campaigns in recent years, “La La Land,” to have its stars wear Oscars in light of the outcry for this year’s Best Picture winner to have led this year’s Academy Awards. (According to Vanity Fair, a spokesperson said the production team didn’t know of the “Davids” plan and, when asked if they might have been willing to have their stars wear the gowns they wore on stage, one producer said, “Only if there was a Harry Potter joke somewhere.”)
“They were all embarrassed. I was embarrassed,” Mechanic said. “You could see the confusion and disappointment. We all should have stayed in our respective comfort zones and not messed with it.”