×
Back to IndieWire

Sacha Baron Cohen Opens Up on ‘Borat’ Stunts That Ignited Homophobic and Far-Right Riots

Making "Borat 2" almost cost Sacha Baron Cohen his life.

Sacha Baron Cohen arrives at the 2019 Hollywood Foreign Press Association's Annual Grants Banquet at the Beverly Wilshire Beverly Hills on Wednesday, July 31, 2019. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

Sacha Baron Cohen

Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

Sacha Baron Cohen has published an op-ed for Time magazine in which he details a few moments throughout his professional life where he’s feared for his life. One such moment occurred during the making of his film “Brunoduring a comedy stunt where Cohen, in character, made out with his opponent in an MMA fighting ring while in front of a homophobic crowd.

“In Arkansas, I posed as an ultimate fighter at a cage match and challenged anyone in the audience to take me on,” Cohen writes. “When my fake ex-boyfriend volunteered, we engaged in some heavy petting, triggering a near riot. The crowd—including some recently paroled prisoners with swastika tattoos—erupted in homophobic slurs and started hurling metal chairs at us. Had I not ducked into a trapdoor and out an escape tunnel, I think the crowd would have beaten me senseless.”

Cohen also feared for his life during the making of his “Borat” sequel, officially titled “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.” Cohen made headlines over the summer when he showed up at a far-right rally in Washington and got attendees to sing a racist song with him, but what people didn’t see was the riot that broke out afterwards.

“When organizers finally stormed the stage, I rushed to a nearby get-away vehicle,” Cohen writes. “An angry crowd blocked our way and started pounding on the vehicle with their fists. Under my overalls, I was wearing a bulletproof vest, but it felt inadequate with some people outside toting semiautomatic weapons. When someone ripped open the door to drag me out, I used my entire body weight to pull the door back shut until our vehicle maneuvered free. I was fortunate to make it out in one piece. The next few weeks will determine whether America will be so lucky.”

Cohen adds that “moments like that are frightening. Today, though, I’m truly terrified—for the survival of democracy itself.” As the comedian notes, he is once again fearing for his life due to Donald Trump and Facebook. Cohen’s comments expanded on his viral 2019 keynote speech in which he called Facebook the “greatest propaganda machine in history.”

“Trump — who averages 23 lies a day and is the world’s greatest superspreader of coronavirus conspiracies — has caught the virus himself,” Cohen writes. “He has a dutiful ally in Facebook — the greatest propaganda machine in history. And this is a time when Americans are especially vulnerable to lies and conspiracies. This trifecta has created a whirlwind of conspiratorial madness.”

Cohen continues, “The Demagogue in Chief has a willing accomplice in Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook — a megaphone that history’s worst autocrats could only dream of. Its algorithm deliberately amplifies content that generates more engagement…Not surprisingly, most days the top 10 Facebook posts are overwhelmingly from right-wing pundits and outlets.”

Head over to Time’s website to read Cohen’s op-ed in its entirety.

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: Film and tagged , , ,


Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox