LONDON, ENGLAND – MAY 10: Sacha Baron Cohen attends the European Premiere of “Alice Through The Looking Glass” at Odeon Leicester Square on May 10, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Ben Pruchnie/WireImage)
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HFPA in Conversation: Sacha Baron Cohen’s Work Expresses His Dissent

Golden Globe winner Sacha Baron Cohen tells HFPA journalist Greet Ramaekers that he assumed that a sequel to Borat would be impossible.  “Over the years we discussed how it would be possible to do another Borat movie. And we basically thought the only way to do it was as a scripted movie, with actors playing other characters in Borat’s life.  And I didn’t want to do it.  So I ruled it out.”

Then Donald Trump came along and Cohen was not a fan of his. “I made a TV show called Who is America? and that was meant to be a satire of Trumpism, it had those around Trump, some of them we interviewed, Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Corey Lewandowski and Judge Roy Moore. And I felt there was a need to go undercover again, because that was my way of expressing my dissent.”

Then the midterms happened and he was invited onto the Jimmy Kimmel Show. “Last minute I decided to try and do Borat. I managed to get it together, we did a five-minute piece, and I suddenly had this realization that Borat was a slightly more extreme version of Trump. I suddenly had this realization that Borat was a way to get people who supported Trump to really reveal themselves.  And perhaps if we could make a movie, perhaps we could convince a handful of people to vote against Trump or maybe not to vote for Trump and then I could look myself in the mirror and on November 4th, 2020 and say I did what I could do to show my opposition to this man that I felt was reprehensible and stood against everything that I stood for. There’s a limit to what we can do and you can either go out as yourself and be a celebrity or you can use your work to express your dissent, and that’s what I did.”

He felt we were living in a very dangerous time. “Democracy was in peril, that politicians and social media were driving us apart, and I felt I couldn’t be a bystander. This political system that I had grown up with, that I felt that had flaws, I felt I had to do everything I could to try and preserve it. It sounds ridiculous and pretentious to a degree that who the hell is this bloody comedian who thinks he can make a difference? But I felt I had to take a stand; I couldn’t be a bystander.”

Cohen is plays Abbie Hoffman in writer/director Aaron Sorkin‘s The Trial of The Chicago 7 .

“His role was a 13-year journey for me. I had learned about him during my undergraduate thesis in Cambridge. Where I’d investigated Jewish radicals, who were involved in the black civil rights movement in the 60’s. When I heard about the project, I called up Steven Spielberg in 2007 who was the original director and I asked him to let me audition. And after a long process he gave me the role.”

The project went from director to director. “Eventually I asked whether Aaron would consider me again for Abbie and amazingly he agreed to let me do it.”

Listen to the podcast and hear how Da Ali G Show and the first Borat movie changed the way he sees the world; what shocked him while he was filming Who Is America?Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of KazakhstanBrünoThe Trial of The Chicago 7