Wow! Sacha Baron Cohen totally made Eminem look like a fool on the MTV Movie Awards by landing with his ass in his face! Daaaaamn!!
Ah, the art of the staged publicity stunt. Even after it came out that the whole thing was planned with Eminem's cooperation, you could still find comment threads full of people defending it as real.
And as publicity stunts go, that was minor league stuff. Especially when compared to...
6Mel Gibson and The Passion of the Christ "Controversy"
Mel Gibson's movie, The Passion of the Christ, was a Bible movie with no stars and not a word of English directed by a guy who was on the verge of wearing a special helmet that would keep the Jews from reading his thoughts. Needless to say, it was a tough sell.
But through a careful campaign that involved screening the film to Christian and conservative audiences in advance, Passion was hugely successful, grossing $370 million in the U.S. Then a month after it opened in February of 2004, it was set to open internationally, where they wouldn't have the same network of evangelical churches telling members it was their godly duty to buy a ticket.
So how do you build buzz in that situation? Well, nothing sells like controversy...
The Publicity Stunt:
Around the first of March, stories came out that no distributors in France would carry the film because it was too controversial. According to these reports, French film distributors were concerned that a Mel Gibson movie, that had already grossed enough to build a yacht-shitting Death Star, was too much for the sensitive tastes of the French public.
Some major French newspapers devoted two full pages to the controversy surrounding the movie. And as always happens with censorship, it only served to make people want to see it more. Once a French distributor purchased the rights to the film, they called a press conference to celebrate that they alone were the brave souls who would bring this banned work to light.
Why it Was Bullshit:
It turns out the "this film is TOO HOT for France!!" rumors were invented by Icon, Mel Gibson's production company. In reality, the French were more than happy to be bored while watching Jesus get whipped for six hours.
The head of the company that wound up distributing it said, "We have been tracking this film since its inception and were hoping to be in business with Mel..."
Still, this controversy and the free publicity helped the film gross another $240 million internationally. We're not sure what Mel's master plan was behind his breakdown and drunk driving arrest afterward, but we're sure he had one.