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Sacha Baron Cohen: Used To Be BORAT / Cinema

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 The intensely private comic actor readily admits he is more comfortable talking in the guise of the characters he has created, but unfortunately for him, both Ali G and Borat have had their day. Too many people know them and he reluctantly acknowledges that he can no longer retreat behind their personas.
“When I was being Ali G and Borat I was in character sometimes 14 hours a day and I came to love them, so admitting I am never going to play them again is quite a sad thing,” he said. “It is like saying goodbye to a loved one. It is hard, and the problem with success, although it’s fantastic, is that every new person who sees the Borat movie is one less person I ‘get’ with Borat again, so it’s a kind of self-defeating form, really.

“It’s upsetting, but the success has been great and better than anything I could have dreamed of.”

In a rare interview that is given as himself and not in character, he admits it is an unusual and not particularly pleasant experience for him.

“It’s much easier for me to be in character and it’s a lot more fun,” he said. “If I’d done the entire promotional campaign for Borat as myself it wouldn’t have developed in the same way. I think it can get a little be tiresome if you’re having to be the real person and talking about how important and interesting the role was. To me, it should be entertaining and the entertainment should carry on.”

Sacha Baron Cohen is reluctant to divulge any information that may give an insight into the man behind the characters he plays. If a question appeals to him he veers into a funny anecdote almost as if he is doing a stand-up comedy act for an audience: he switches characters and assumes their voices, becoming a Yorkshireman, a female singing teacher and an Italian in quick succession.

But if for some reason he finds the question unsuitable or he simply does not want to answer, he lowers his head and mutters almost inaudibly.
Born in North London to a Welsh clothing store owner and an Israeli aerobics teacher mother, Sacha Baron Cohen grew up watching Peter Sellers, whom he says was his inspiration. “I think I was seven when I saw the first Inspector Clouseau film and I really believed the character. Then I started to see more and more of his films. He was this incredibly realistic actor who was also hilarious and who managed to bridge the gap between comedy and satire.

“Admittedly he wasn’t much of an inspiration in his personal life because he wasn’t the greatest father or husband, but as an actor and a comedian he is the guy that I’ve tried to emulate.”

Cohen attended private school and went on to read history at Christ’s College, Cambridge, where he wrote a dissertation on the role of Jews in the U.S. civil rights movement. “I had the choice of either pursuing my studies and doing a Ph.D or doing something that was a bit more fun, so I decided that rather than sit alone in a library, I’d try and make people laugh.”

He moved into television and was hired on Channel 4’s 11 O’Clock Show after he sent the producers a tape of him posing as an Albanian reporter interviewing fox hunters. Ali G was born shortly afterwards.

Looking to conquer America next (although Americans had already recognized him as the limo driver in Madonna’s “Music” video), Da Ali G Show crossed the Atlantic and became a cult favourite on U.S. cable television thanks to hilariously idiotic and offensive questions to former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan, Newt Gingrich, former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh, Donald Trump and the former Surgeon-General C. Everett Koop, among others. 
Ali G’s popularity led to Cohen’s first film, Ali G Indahouse after which he provided one of the voices in the animated film Madagascar and then played an obnoxious French racing river in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.

Then Borat, the film featuring the character who had first appeared on the Ali G Show. Helped by objections from the official government of Kazakhstan and Baron Cohen’s wildly funny promotional appearances on any talk show that would have him, Borat became a phenomenon, although not everybody was happy.
“Since last year I’ve been sued by about 3,000 people,” said Baron Cohen. “Some of the letters I get are quite unusual, like the one where the lawyer informed me I’m about to be sued for $100,000 and at the end says, “P.S. Loved the movie. Can you sign a poster for my son Jeremy?’”

His performance as Borat earned him a Golden Globe Award as best actor in a comedy or musical, which he credits with transforming his career. “It broke me out from being just a pure comedian into something larger, because in the entertainment business people are categorised either as comedians or actors,” he said. “The award let people know there was a performance behind Borat, because the problem was that when I used to do Ali G and Borat people assumed that I was them and there was no acting involved.”

Baron Cohen had just finished Borat when he decided he would audition for the role of Pirelli, a flamboyant rival singing barber who meets an exceedingly bloody end at the hands of Johnny Depp’s Todd In Sweeney Todd, Tim Burton’s slasher-horror movie musical.

Wearing exceedingly tight-fitting tights with appropriate bulges, Pirelli is a wonderful creation and provides a riotous interlude in the movie. Burton said of him: “He brought a burst of colour into the darkness and his suit was tight - that’s how he was able to hit the high notes.”

He is finishing work on his next project, which features Bruno, the gay, Austrian fashion reporter who also made his first appearance with Ali G, although Baron Cohen is unwilling to discuss it.

“It would probably hurt the film if I started talking about it, so I prefer to comment once I’ve got a finished film,” he said.
He is also unwilling to talk about his home life in Los Angeles with his girlfriend, the Australian actress Isla Fisher, who recently gave birth to their daughter, Olive.

“I try and keep that part of my life separate from the professional part because I don’t think it helps people appreciate the work or the comedy or make me any funnier if they know what’s going on at home,” he said.

Genesis of Ali G

“The idea was that I would host the show, and then we would play some prerecorded segments of me appearing as these different characters, who would comment on myself as a host. And one of those characters was an early form of Ali G.”

One of the inspirations for the character was a white BBC Radio One hip-hop DJ named Tim Westwood. “We used go to these hip-hop happenings, and even then he was kind of laughable. Once I found out that he was actually the son of a bishop, it became even more absurd. He was so keen to be presented as a gangsta.”

Trivia for Borat

• Being a satire on American society, the movie has nothing to do with Kazakhstan and Kazakh people.
• Borat is based on a Russian doctor Sacha Baron Cohen once met. He said the doctor was completely hilarious, but it was unintentional.
• When Sacha Baron Cohen speaks Kazakh it is mostly Hebrew disguised by a heavy fake Eastern European accent. The Hebrew is quite understandable and contains many in-jokes.
• The subtitles in Borat are Cyrillic subtitles. Most of these subtitles are real Cyrillic, but they contain many errors, mostly the incorrect use of Cyrillic letters. Some subtitles make no sense, for example the gay pride parade subtitle reads “Meal Society of the ‘Magnolia’ manor”. Some subtitles are nothing more than a random stream of Cyrillic letters, for example the title of the Kazakh TV channel at the beginning of the movie, and the supposedly Kazakh title of the movie later. The geographical names on the maps are almost all gibberish, except for the names in the largest print, such as “America” or “London”.
• In terms of letters, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan is the longest film title ( 72 letters).
• Johnny Depp, George Clooney and Steve Martin, all of whom are huge fans of Sacha Baron Cohen, all contacted him about having a cameo in the movie. But Sacha refused because it would have ruined some of the gags if they knew what was going on.

Bruno, the second real-life film

If you thought Borat crossed the line and pissed off a few people just wait until July when Bruno is released. Bruno is a mockumentary comedy film slated for release on July 10, 2009. The title character, a gay Austrian fashion journalist, is already well known for storming runways at designers’ shows and aiming to embarrass industry figures in interviews. Clips of his work have become cult favourites on YouTube. In the United States, test audiences have already viewed an early edit and some religious members are not finding it to be funny at all. With one of the key characters being a black model named Jesus, who wears a loincloth and a crown of thorns, it is obvious that the characters were created deliberately to wind up certain sections of society. It is also rumoured that Bruno and his boyfriend, Diesel, adopt an orphaned African baby boy called David and parade the child around fashion shows. It is thought the joke is aimed at Madonna, who adopted a Malawian baby called David Banda.


Продолжение читайте в журнале English4U №3 (сентябрь 2009) на который можно подписаться или купить.

31 октября 2009


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