Cohen's 'Bruno' preps for bigscreen makeover

Universal appears to be close to inking a $42.5 million deal for worldwide distrib rights to Sacha Baron Cohen’s next project, “Bruno.” Pic would be based on his fashion victim alter ego featured in “Da Ali G Show.”

Posing as an Austrian TV reporter who’s notably gay, Cohen wormed his way into style hot spots like New York’s Fashion Week, getting people to say outrageous things about the fashion world, such as condemning the unstylish to concentration camps.

Bidding for Cohen’s next pic has attracted interest from multiple studios and comes just before 20th Century Fox opens Cohen’s “Borat” this Friday.

U had no comment on the deal on Sunday, but its $42.5 million offer for worldwide rights would be a significant increase from the $18 million budget that “Borat” carried. Fact that the price has gone up so high reflects the faith studios beyond Fox have in “Borat.” Despite industry tracking that shows low levels of public awareness of the pic, “Borat” has played to raves in early screenings, and industry observers expect the pic to generate significant B.O. after word of mouth spreads to those uninitiated in the humor of the faux Kazakh journo.

While “Bruno” is expected to shoot in a manner similar to that of “Borat,” featuring interview segments with real people unaware that the Bruno character is a put-on, Cohen may have to go beyond the fashion world to find suitable subjects.

In one “Ali G” episode for HBO, Cohen managed to talk his way into modeling underwear at a runway show. After that stunt, his visage is likely well known within the Fashion Week tents. Cohen has taken the character far afield before, however, using the Bruno character’s gay mannerism to elicit uncomfortable reactions from college boys on spring break and U. of Alabama football fans.

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