Maria Bakalova is finally talking in depth for the first time about “Borat 2,” in which her performance as Borat’s daughter, Tutar, has made her one of the year’s biggest breakout performers and a surprise Oscar contender. In an interview with The New York Times, the 24-year-old Bulgarian actress told her side of the story regarding the comedy sequel’s infamous Rudy Giuliani scene. Bakalova was at the center of the set piece as Tutar disguises herself as a journalist in order to score a one-on-one video interview with Giuliani.
When asked if she ever felt her life was in physical danger while filming “Borat 2,” Bakalova answered, “Maybe the scene when we were at the hotel and Rudy Giuliani called the police, I was kind of scared that something would happen. But fortunately, we escaped.”
Bakalova said she was “nervous” before entering the hotel room with Giuliani, adding, “My heart was racing. But Sacha was like, you should be nervous in this situation. So use your nerves. Convert them and accept them and they’re going to help you through everything.”
The scene ends with Giuliani and Bakalova as Tutar in a hotel room having drinks. Baron Cohen’s Borat crashes the meeting just as Giuliani is seen on the hotel bed in a potentially compromising position. While it appears Giuliani has his hands down his pants, he has argued that he was simply trying to take off the microphone he was wearing for the interview and then tucking in his shirt. Bakalova refused to share her opinion of what exactly went down.
“I saw everything that you saw,” the actress said. “If you saw the movie, that’s our message. We want everybody to see the movie and judge for themselves…Sacha jumped into the room quickly, because he’s been worried about me. So, if he were late, I don’t know how things were going to go. But he came just in time.”
Bakalova was also at the center of “Borat 2” scenes involving Jeanise Jones, who was hired to be Tutar’s babysitter and showed the character so much generosity that “Borat” fans crowdfunded over $100,000 for Jones following the sequel’s release.
“We spent maybe five, six hours with Jeanise and she is the person you see onscreen,” Bakalova said. “She is just incredible. She’s not an actress — she just wanted to help Tutar and for Tutar to appreciate herself, to follow her dreams and educate herself. We need people like Jeanise. She is an angel.”
As for what Baron Cohen’s best tip was during filming, Bakalova said it was a hand gesture to fight the urge to break character and ruin the scene. “There were moments when the scene was extremely funny and you just can’t stop laughing,” Bakalova said. “It’s bad, because people were able to realize that it’s a joke. He taught me a trick to cross my fingers, to put pressure on my fingers, to stop laughing.”
Head over to The New York Times’ website to read Bakalova’s full interview, including her thoughts on the “Borat 2” audition process.