A creative clash between “Old School” director Todd Phillips and British comic Sacha Baron Cohen has prompted the director to ankle “Borat,” a documentary-style comedy feature that had just begun shooting.
Title refers to the boorish Kazakhstan immigrant character Cohen plays on HBO’s “Da Ali G Show.”
Though none of the principals would comment, or even confirm they were making a movie, sources said “Borat” is a low-budget, largely improvised film with a loose storyline in which the character comes to the U.S. on a mission. It is believed that 20th Century Fox would distribute, though the studio may not have a formal arrangement to do so at this point. Fox declined to comment.
Cohen and Phillips clashed from the start over their vision for the movie. Each had reason to be stubborn. Borat, a naively clever interviewer who says outlandish things and sometimes gets those around him to reveal unpleasant truths about themselves, is Cohen’s character creation. Phillips, who began his career making docs, has a strong track record with hit comedies “Road Trip,” “Old School” and “Starsky & Hutch.”
The opening footage of the film was enough to test a star-director relationship. Borat reportedly got the organizers of a rodeo in Virginia to allow him to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” He did it poorly and made headlines for inciting the rodeo crowd by making inflammatory remarks in support of the war in Iraq.
The makers of the film plan to hire another director and resume filming as quickly as possible.