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Sacha Baron Cohen has made a living off of hilarious pranks and satirical comedy, but he’s also shown his talent in various dramatic roles. With the release of Borat Subsequent Moviefilm and The Trial of the Chicago 7 this year, he’s been as busy as ever. Let’s dive into the details of his life and career.
#1: Kazakhstan is okay with Borat this time around.
Back in 2006, the Kazakh government banned Baron Cohen’s breakout film, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. This time around, they’re actually embracing Borat. Their new tourism slogan is “Kazakhstan, very nice!”
#2: Baron Cohen started out as a model.
Before he became Borat, Bruno, and the Admiral General Aladeen, he was a fashion model.
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#3: Sacha Baron Cohen has been sued countless times.
Former Georgia lawmaker Jason Spencer is among the many people that want to take legal action after being pranked by Baron Cohen. He tricked Spencer into yelling racial slurs on his show Who is America? (2018).
#4: He went to college in Cambridge.
He studied history at Christ’s College in Cambridge, and was also a member of the Cambridge University Dramatic Club.
#5: He has a grooming routine for each of his characters.
Each character requires a different routine. For Borat, he grows his hair for six weeks, while Ali G takes four weeks.
#6: He had his own TV program before he released Borat.
Da Ali G Show (2000-2004) centered around Ali G, a British wannabe-rapper. On the show, he interviewed people on serious subjects, and the interviewees were often unaware that Baron Cohen was acting as a satirical character.
#7: His older brother is composer Erran Baron Cohen.
Erran has composed music for the majority of Sacha’s films, including Borat and The Dictator (2012).
#8: The FBI opened a file on Baron Cohen.
People in the United States got concerned that the Borat character was a terrorist back in 2006, so they complained to authorities. The FBI looked into it, but nothing came of it. Maybe they figured out that Baron Cohen is a harmless entertainer, and not a menace to society.
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#9: His idol is Peter Sellers.
Sellers was an English comedian who also played satirical characters. His influence on Baron Cohen is quite clear.
#10: He worked with Martin Scorcese.
He starred as a train conductor in Scorcese’s film Hugo (2011).
#11: He sang Fiddler on the Roof for Tim Burton.
While auditioning for Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007), Baron Cohen sang a song in its entirety for the esteemed director. It’s safe to say that he’s thorough.
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#12: He speaks fluent Hebrew.
In an interview with NPR, he explained why he often speaks Hebrew in his films. “I do like the irony of Borat, a deeply anti-Semitic character, speaking Hebrew, and this guy [in The Dictator,] who you know, wants to annihilate Israel, is also speaking Hebrew,” he said.
#13: He tries to expose people’s prejudice by fooling them and having them let their guard down.
In a 2006 interview with Rolling Stone, he explained that there is a deeper meaning behind his pranks. “Borat essentially works as a tool. By himself being anti-Semitic, he lets people lower their guard and expose their own prejudice, whether it’s anti-Semitism or an acceptance of anti-Semitism,” he said.
#14: He based the Borat character on a Jewish doctor he met in Russia.
The unlikely origin of the character just goes to show how you never know what will happen on a day-to-day basis. It could be an uneventful day, or you could meet a Jewish doctor that inspires you to create a comedic character.
#15: No Borat scenes were actually filmed in Kazakhstan.
Most of the filming took place in Glod, Romania, as well as the United States.
The Joker director was not amused with the improvisational nature of the set and was scared for his safety when they were filming the famous “rodeo” scene.
#17: Seth Rogen wrote for Da Ali G Show.
Rogen, who was not yet the household name that he is today, was a wide-eyed comedy writer trying to get his feet wet in the industry when he first crossed paths with Baron Cohen.
#18: Baron Cohen doesn’t speak Kazakh.
In Borat, he speaks a mixture of Israeli slang and Hebrew.
#19: He was interrogated by the Secret Service.
You guessed it, it happened while he was acting as Borat. He managed to stay in character the whole time, a testament to his dedication and acting skills.
#20: He almost got arrested filming Borat in New York City.
The local police chief tried his best, but Borat always stayed one step ahead.
#21: He was scared to use an American accent in The Trial of the Chicago 7.
Baron Cohen played Abbie Hoffman, one of the people arrested and tried for inciting a riot at the Democratic National Convention in 1968. Despite faking accents his entire career, he wasn’t confident in his American accent, saying he was “terrified.”
#22: He impressed Aaron Sorkin with his preparation for the role.
Sorkin noted how Baron Cohen would always watch videos of Hoffman’s speeches on set.
#23: He played an Israeli spy.
The Spy (2019) is a Netflix miniseries that centers on the life of Eli Cohen.
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#24: His wife converted to Judaism before marrying him.
Fellow comedian and actress Isla Fisher married Baron Cohen in 2010. She explained her affinity for the religion to C Magazine, saying “You know, I didn’t get to go to university because I’ve been acting since I was a kid. So, for me, studying theology was also fascinating. I love Judaism.”
#25: Cohen broke his foot while filming Bruno (2009).
The setback didn’t stop Baron Cohen from finishing and showing the world another hilarious character, the gay Austrian fashion designer known as Bruno.
#26: Borat 2 is dedicated to Holocaust survivor Judith Dim Evans.
Evans appeared in the movie, but has since passed away.
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#27: He has won a Golden Globe and has gotten Oscar nominations.
He has been honored for his work in Borat, Da Ali G Show, and The Spy.
#28: He was in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.
He played a small role as a rival racecar driver to Ricky Bobby (Will Ferrell).
#29: The Times named him one of the 30 best living comedians in 2018.
The British publication had no choice but to submit to the Admiral General Aladeen.
#30: He always retires his characters.
With the exception of Borat, he doesn’t like his characters getting too famous, because then he won’t be able to fool people anymore.
#31: The Admiral General Aladeen was a spoof of Muammar al-Ghadaffi.
The Libyan dictator was assassinated a few months before The Dictator was released.
#32: Borat first reappeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live in 2018.
Little did we know, this was just a preview for Borat’s proper return to the U.S. Very nice!
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Joshua Valdez is an entertainment journalist who likes to write about the complexities of his favorite movies and TV shows, often relating them to real-world issues. He also enjoys writing about current events in the entertainment landscape, and is always looking for interesting topics to cover. Rather than gossip, he focuses on how events in the entertainment world reflect on society at large. This was a significant factor in why he chose to write for Hollywood Insider, as they focus on art and culture over gossip and scandal. His ultimate goal is to help the reader learn something new.