Disgraced athlete-turned-actor O.J. Simpson is back in front of the camera and being paid well for it -- and it's all because of Sacha Baron Cohen, claims a new report.
According to Britain's The Mail on Sunday, the English comedy star paid O.J. -- who was released from a Nevada prison last fall after serving nine years for his role in an armed robbery years after he was infamously acquitted of two murders -- about $20,000 to appear in a filmed prank, according to a source close to the production.
Sacha, 46 -- famous for playing characters including Ali G, Borat and Bruno -- wore a curly dark wig and thick-rimmed black glasses to meet O.J., 70, in a Las Vegas hotel room for the project, reports The Mail on Sunday.
"O.J. would not even get in the hotel room until he was paid a sackload of cash," the source told the newspaper. "There was no way Sacha could have got O.J. into the room without paying money."
O.J. was acquitted in the murders of ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman in a 1995 criminal trial but was found liable for their deaths in a subsequent civil case and ordered to pay tens of millions of dollars to their families. According to The Mail on Sunday, he still owes them about $70 million.
Nicole and Ron's loved ones were outraged upon hearing the allegations.
"Nicole and Ron are two human beings who were brutally murdered. This is not a joke nor is it entertainment. If Sacha makes this a comedic effort, his victims will be personified as a joke. Shame on him," Nicole's sister Tanya told The Mail on Sunday.
Ron's family was equally concerned. "If money changed hands then all of the money paid should go to Ron's father, Fred. There is a legal and moral imperative here," Goldman family lawyer David Cook said.
When The Mail on Sunday approached O.J. on Feb. 9 as he ate lunch with friends at a wine bar in Summerlin, Nevada, just outside Vegas -- he's been living at a pal's mansion in a nearby gated community -- he refused to say if he received payment for being filmed but did say he knows Sacha. "I know him well. I met him. Nice guy," O.J. told the paper.
When a reporter knocked on the door of the home where the comedian lives with wife Isla Fisher in Los Angeles, a woman who answered the door said Sacha wasn't there.