By William McGuinness
Originally published on Advocate.com July 08 2009 12:00 AM ET
Some scenes in Sacha Baron Cohen's Brüno are intended to raise eyebrows and provoke a strong response. But the most shocking scene of all was axed before the film hit theaters.
Spoiler alert: The title character Brüno is a hyper-gay exaggeration who looks for fame in Los Angeles after his excommunication from the fashion world of his native Austria. The search for fame proves as difficult as capturing a spotlight swirling over Hollywood Boulevard, but he does find love in his assistant.
In a cage.
In a cage match.
In a cage match in Arkansas, before an angry crowd that would rather see two men tear each other apart than engage in a gay make-out session. From there, the movie cuts in a different direction, but original versions allegedly included a violent reaction from the crowd that left the two new lovers bloodied and disabled from a wincing gay bash.
The two later announce their marriage in a press conference, but only Brüno speaks. His fiancé looks brain-dead -- drooling on himself in his wheelchair.
The scene is played for laughsâ€¦and got them, Movieline.com reports .
Voicing his discomfort with the original ending, writer-director Richard Day ( Arrested Development, Ellen ) said that others in the audience of a screening he attended back in January defended it. Day and actor Jack Plotnick were the only known gay members of the crowd, the director said.
Jennifer Chamberlain, a representative of NBC/Universal, told The Advocate that the studio did not make the decision to cut the controversial scene; she had no further comment.
Like Borat , critics say Brüno is intended to hold a mirror to the deep-seated prejudices of this country. Day, however, is unconvinced. He said the movie does not expose homophobia because the most offensive scenes, including one in which Brüno pumps his ex with a dildo attached to an exercise bike, occur when no onlookers are present to be offended.
"If the answer is supposed to be 'the audience's,' then something went horribly wrong," Day told The Advocate . "In executing the material he, like any comedian, went where he knew the big laughs were -- on us gays."
Day said gay viewers can get proof by seeing the movie with a straight audience. "You know exactly why they're laughing, and it's not at the homophobes."
Essentially, Brüno has two story lines: one in which he seeks fame and the other in which he purges his gayness to get it.
Day said Brüno's gayness isn't separate from the other story line but central to it.
"What is fame but mass acceptance? What is gay marriage and the right to serve but mass acceptance?" he asked. "Here comes a $40 million movie sold by a $40 million ad campaign saying, basically, aren't gays clueless for thinking we'll love them when they act like that?"
Following the release of Borat , critics broke down the movie, looking for intent and insight into Cohen's mind, wondering how it worked and exactly what the film achieved.
Day said Cohen's new movie isn't a thickly veiled kick to the face of the LGBT community.
"I don't think Sacha Baron Cohen hates us. I don't think he thinks about us one way or another. How could he? We're not him," he said. "But even with a blank check to make any movie he wanted, he decided to go down a path that all but guaranteed he would sell us out. It's his right, of course. I just wish he had the balls to be more honest about it."