Of all the characters comedian Sacha Baron Cohen has played, perhaps his most famous is Borat. He made audiences uncomfortable with his first movie Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan and then brought the character out of hiding with last year’s Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. With the success of both movies, one would think that Cohen would be anxious for a number 3. Not so fast.
If people didn’t know Sacha Baron Cohen as Borat before, they most certainly know him now, right? So how could he possibly do a third Borat movie? He did spend some time in the second Borat disguised, so that is always a possibility. There are certain sections of the country who may still not know who Borat is, but the chances of that get slimmer as time passes. And then there is Sacha Baron Cohen himself.
It seems, according to the actor, that Borat may have seen his final days. It could be the real danger he puts himself in while filming, whether it be COVID-related or simply the people he deals with. “There were moments in making this movie where I thought, why the hell am I doing this?” says Baron Cohen. “This is illogical. You think, am I mad? Have I got something deeply wrong with me?” Most likely he does and that is his overwhelming desire to make people laugh at his brand of comedy. But as for a Borat 3? No dice. “I brought Borat out because of Trump,” says Cohen. “There was a purpose to this movie, and I don’t really see the purpose to doing it again. So yeah, he’s locked away in the cupboard.” Really? For how long?
Sacha Baron Cohen first introduced Borat Sagdiyev to the world on his Da Ali G Show. In it, Borat would interview bystanders in both the United Kingdom and the United States on subjects that often left the bystanders confused. Cohen developed the Borat character before his Da Ali G Show but put Borat to bed while he was developing his Ali G character. Once Ali G became popular, he decided to dust off Borat to even further success.
It took Sacha Baron Cohen 14 years to bring back Borat after his huge success with the first movie. Fans had been clamoring for a long time, always begging Cohen to revisit Borat and his poor country of Kazakhstan, but Cohen always brushed it off. But in 2019 there were rumors that perhaps, maybe, hopefully, Cohen was ready for another Borat sighting. Then the rumor was Borat 2 was actually being filmed. And just as quickly, Amazon Prime announced that indeed a second Borat movie was made and would premiere on their streaming service. Our review, with spoilers, can be read here.
But the road back to Borat wasn’t only a long one in terms of years, but once Sacha Baron Cohen decided to wear Borat’s clothes again, the challenges were just starting. Cohen had already started scripting a movie based on another of his characters, Erran Morad, the Israeli anti-terrorism expert who made his debut on Cohen’s 2018 Showtime series Who is America? But Cohen eventually abandoned that project after he briefly reprised his Borat role during an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! Anthony Hines, co-writer and producer of the second Borat movie told Variety, “I had just turned in the draft of the Erran Morad movie, and Sacha called me up and said, ‘You know that project? Let’s not do that. Let’s do Borat instead.’”
Sacha Baron Cohen found himself in a time crunch. He was, at the time, also working on The Trial of the Chicago 7 in which he played Abbie Hoffman and had a goal of releasing his new Borat movie before the 2020 Presidential election. “I felt democracy was in peril, I felt people’s lives were in peril and I felt compelled to finish the movie,” says Cohen to Variety. “The movie was originally about the danger of Trump and Trumpism. What coronavirus demonstrated was that there’s a lethal effect to his spreading of lies and conspiracy theories.”
So, it was important for Sacha Baron Cohen to get it completed. He did to resounding critical and fan response. Not only does the movie make audiences feel that comically uncomfortable feeling, it features a scene with Cohen’s on-screen daughter, Maria Bakalova, and Rudy Giuliani in a most revealing scene where Bakalova leads Rudy into an adjoining bedroom for an interview and he proceeds to ask her for her phone number and address. He then lies on the bed, sticking his hand down his pants. While Giuliani insists he was tucking in his shirt, the rest of the world disagrees.