June 26, 2009 at 06:48 PM EDT

After Michael Jackson’s death was reported yesterday, actor Sacha Baron Cohen and the makers of his new shockfest Bruno scrambled to delete a scene featuring Michael’s sister LaToya—just hours before the film’s premiere at Mann’s Chinese Theater, in Los Angeles. The sudden cut made for a conspicuously jumpy stretch, but the filmmakers narrowly avoided what would have been some uncomfortable, buzz-killing silence at the premiere. No one connected to the film would comment on the deletion of the scene, but it is hard to imagine that it will be restored to the movie before Bruno opens on July 10. 

The scene, which had previously been seen by journalists, found Baron Cohen’s Bruno—a wildly gay, fame-seeking Austrian fashionista—snagging an interview with LaToya. Ms. Jackson, who did not appear to be in on the joke, gamely tried to answer Bruno’s questions even as he interrogated her about her brother Michael and tried surreptitiously to find Michael’s number on her cellphone. The scene ended, as most things in Bruno’s world do, with a moment of raw, funny discomfort.

Before the screening at Mann’s Chinese, journalists on the red carpet were told they could not ask any questions about Michael Jackson (which is ironic given that Baron Cohen has built a career on blindsiding people with his camera and mic). The actor, who worked the red carpet only in character, made a grand arrival atop a tank. The vehicle was covered with mirrors, like a disco ball, and Bruno, naturally, was straddling the canon.

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