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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm's director tried to talk Sacha Baron Cohen out of making the moviefilm

Illustration for article titled Borat Subsequent Moviefilm's director tried to talk Sacha Baron Cohen out of making the moviefilm
Photo: Courtesy of Amazon Studios

Despite the absolute barrage of press leading up to and following the release of Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, director Jason Woliner’s first interview about the film somehow arrived today. And maybe that’s a good thing, because Insider’s interview with the Nathan For You alum is full of gems that might otherwise have slipped below the radar. Although given what he says, such an outcome is unlikely. If nothing else, the fact that he tried to talk Sacha Baron Cohen out of making the movie seems like kind of a big deal:

I told him I loved the script, but I came on very strong. I basically said that “Borat” is the funniest movie ever made and that it’s almost certainly a mistake to do a sequel.

I said in almost every version of this it’s a disaster: most comedy sequels aren’t good, the long-delayed sequels are extremely tough, and because of the nature of the movie, Borat is one of the most popular comedy characters of the last century so you have to find people who don’t know who he is. [...]

Sacha of course was completely aware of all of it and agreed with everything I said. If I had to guess, I think he respected that I came in with eyes open that I knew what a daunting task it was.


It’s honestly a fascinating read, because if you want making-of details for any movie, isn’t it this one?

The details came a thousand times a day. And then it changed in the biggest way when COVID came into the picture. We had to decide, do we stop or push on? But that thought didn’t last long because we wanted this out before the election. And also, my big thing was if we do a movie about 2020 and not have the pandemic, it would be like setting a movie in the fall of 2001 and not mentioning 9/11.

There’s a lot of great information about Borat’s stay with his quarantine buddies Jim and Jerry—“I was living in the house, too. I was in a different bedroom. I slept there. And I would sneak into Sacha’s room at night with a writer or two and we would figure out what to do the next day. But for a lot of it, Sacha was on his own with these guys”—and how Jeanise the babysitter helped the story to evolve. And perhaps most reassuringly, he also detailed what went into preparing Maria Bakalova for her interview with dye-sweating landscaping fiend/America’s Mayor:

We did mock interviews and a lot of rehearsing because you don’t know how these things are going to go. So instead of a script, we had a document that had every single scenario we could think up that could happen. “If this happens, you can do this.” And we just rehearsed with her a lot of different scenarios the day of. But once she was in there, Maria was on her own.

You only rehearsed the day of the interview?

Yeah. Once we were back up and running during COVID, the pace was fast. We went to Washington to do the lockdown, then to the rally, and then a few other things before doing Rudy. We didn’t have a lot of time between things.

In the room, we built a cubby for Sacha to be in and I was in a nearby room watching and texting with him and figuring out when he should come out and save her. We had a million ideas of how it could go and when he laid down on the bed my jaw hit the floor.

Well, yeah, it would tend to make one’s jaw hit the floor, we think. Read the interview in full for more. 

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Contributor, The A.V. Club and The Takeout. Allison loves TV, bourbon, and overanalyzing social interactions. Please buy her book, How TV Can Make You Smarter (Chronicle, 2020). It’s short!