Elderly woman's wheelchair 'death' a Cohen prank (+video)

Sacha Baron Cohen pretends to fall on a presenter during the 2013 Bafta Los Angeles Britannia Awards Photo / AP
Sacha Baron Cohen pretends to fall on a presenter during the 2013 Bafta Los Angeles Britannia Awards Photo / AP

A live TV awards show stunt in which Sacha Baron Cohen knocked an 87-year-old woman off stage and out of her wheelchair - "killing" her - has been revealed as a prank.

Cohen "accidentally" pushed the woman's wheelchair off a stage as he accepted an award for excellence in comedy, causing surprised gasps from the crowd at Saturday's ceremony at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

He was handed a cane from a woman purporting to be Grace Collington - the last actress alive to work with silent movie star Charlie Chaplin. While playing with the cane, Cohen slipped, pushing Collington off the stage.

But as the Los Angeles Times reported, Collington was actually a stuntwoman and the incident was revealed as a prank.

"What a great way to go," Cohen reportedly said while accepting his award. He then joked to the victim's family: "Try and sue. She's dead. Get over it."

The Britannia Awards come just two weeks after the refurbished Hollywood Film Awards drew some of the same celebrities, but there can never be enough Hollywood awards shows.

Networks love the star power, stars adore the accolades and fans delight in the spectacle.

"There are more than 35 Hollywood awards shows on prime-time TV," said Tom O'Neil, founder and editor of awards website GoldDerby.com. "They're the ultimate reality show because we get to witness our cultural gods be winners and losers just like the rest of us."

The Britannia winners were announced in advance, but who doesn't want to see a barefoot Julia Roberts present an award to George Clooney, or watch filmmaker Judd Apatow playfully pick a fight with Sean Penn?

Besides Cohen and Clooney, Kathryn Bigelow, Idris Elba, Benedict Cumberbatch and Ben Kingsley accepted awards from the Los Angeles branch of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.

The Britannia Awards were established in 1989 but the ceremony didn't make its TV debut until last year.

"One of my goals was to increase the talent profile of the channel, and awards shows are a natural way to do that," said BBC America general manager Perry Simon, who joined the network three years ago.

The ceremony was modified to make it more TV-friendly, he said, including "adding more spontaneity."

The night's party vibe also helps the show, he said: "These are entertainers who want to have fun and audiences want to see them have fun."

"When the setting is a banquet and liquor is being served, often the festivities get a little juiced up," O'Neil said. "The superstars ... are goofing off and goofing up and being chummy with each other."

Connecting with Bafta members is another bonus: Many are also members of the motion picture academy, which hands out Hollywood's most coveted award, the Oscar.

- AP

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