Flamboyant British comic Sacha Baron Cohen sparked minor chaos on Cannes’ fabled Croisette beachfront Wednesday as his zany alter ego General Aladeen took a morning stroll on his camel Osama.
The star of “The Dictator” ordered his mini-skirted Amazonian bodyguards to point their assault rifles at the press pack outside the Ritz Carlton Hotel before he straddled his humped beast and headed for a nearby cafe.
The media scrum that followed Cohen clogged traffic on the chic promenade as the fictional Middle Eastern dictator shared his thoughts on France’s new President Francois Hollande and the unrest in Syria.
“Hollandaise? Yes, I supported his campaign. I gave him 500,000 euros,” he quipped. But when asked by AFP if he had sent the lightning bolt that struck Hollande’s plane as it flew to Berlin on Tuesday, he denied any involvement.
“There was a lightning? It was not me,” stated the general, who was dressed for the occasion in a multi-colored jockey’s outfit and brandished a riding crop.
Then he sat at a cafe terrace where he ordered two coffees - one for the camel who refused to drink it - before moving on to a Ralph Lauren store from which he emerged with an orange scarf that he wrapped around his mount’s neck.
The “Ali G”, “Borat” and “Bruno” star, who turned up in military regalia at the Oscars and pretended to pour late North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il’s ashes onto an interviewer, has already premiered his movie.
He was in Cannes simply to cause a stir and try to hog the media limelight as the Riviera resort prepared to launch its 65th annual film festival later Wednesday.
Judging by his outrageous sense of humor and eye for the theatrical, the British comic steal much of the limelight as he adopts the character of Aladeen, a cruel North African dictator partly inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings.
Baron Cohen made a previous appearance in Cannes in 2006 when he turned up on the beach to strut his stuff in a “mankini” to publicize “Borat”.
Amid the pranks and late night parties, however, there is plenty of hard work to be done during the festival, with a giant marketplace showcasing hundreds of films and hoping to defy the economic gloom across much of Europe with a spate of sales.
“The economic situation in Europe is not great, but does it mean that we have to forget the dream?” said Thierry Fremaux, general delegate of the festival. “The (economic) crisis is not the crisis of this yea” .
“It has been five years that we are in crisis here in Europe,” he added.
“But we have to manage a way to give the people dreams and to say that even in the 1930s after the big crisis, cinema was in very good shape.”