Actor, 'Bruno'

No sooner had Sacha Baron Cohen punked Americans with his “Borat” shenanigans in 2006 than Universal announced plans to adapt the third and final character from BBC’s “Da Ali G Show” for the bigscreen: Bruno.

With the R-rated “Borat” earning some $260 million worldwide and subsequently becoming a pop-cultural phenomenom, critics questioned whether there would still be anyone oblivious enough to fall for Cohen’s antics, but the Zelig-like comedian proved them wrong, coaxing hatred and homophobia from unsuspecting victims under the guise of a flamboyant Austrian journalist.

True to his M.O., Cohen has extended the character’s outrageous behavior beyond the screen, fake-falling on Eminem at the MTV Movie Awards and one-upping his neon-green Borat thong by parading around Berlin in an anatomically correct “birthday suit.”

“Bruno” opened to $30 million the weekend of July 10, and although critics saw a weakness in that No. 1 opening number, the pic did huge business in overseas markets.

The results have divided the gay community, sparking national dialogue (and free publicity for U) long before the movie actually hit theaters. While GLAAD’s Rashad Robinson worried that “Bruno” “could affirm troubling attitudes about gay people” in an article for the Huffington Post, others have endorsed the movie, including Out magazine editor Aaron Hicklin.

When confronted directly about his tactics, the actor remains coy. “We never expected to make that money,” Cohen confessed during a rare out-of-character appearance on “Late Show With David Letterman.” “We were surprised that anyone wanted to see it.”

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