Sacha Baron Cohen's latest flick -- ''Bruno'''s producers are wary of how the public will respond to the gay character

By Josh Rottenberg
Updated June 05, 2009 at 04:00 AM EDT

As a kickoff to the marketing campaign for the comedy Brüno, Sacha Baron Cohen’s swan dive into Eminem’s lap at the MTV Movie Awards May 31 was one fabulous buzz builder. The immediate mystery — did Em know he’d be going cheek to cheek with Baron Cohen? — was easily resolved. (Yes, the rapper was in on the joke.) But larger questions about the follow-up to megahit Borat remain: Will a comedy about a swishy Austrian fashion reporter prove ”too gay” for the mainstream? And, arriving at a highly charged moment in the gay-marriage debate, will its comic assault on intolerance promote understanding, or just throw fuel on the fire? (Baron Cohen’s rep had no comment.) Universal has already been quietly reaching out to gay rights groups to address any concerns. Still, by making light of offensive stereotypes, Brüno (out July 10) presents ”a difficult dilemma” for the gay community, says Brad Luna of the Human Rights Campaign. ”We understand the satirical intent, but at the same time, we can’t lose sight of the seriousness of this issue.” One thing is certain: No matter how controversial the subject may be, Baron Cohen is not afraid to get right in your face. Just ask Eminem. — Additional reporting by Sean Smith