The “Borat” buzz only grows louder.
In the most recent uproar over Sacha Baron Cohen’s No. 1 hit movie, the Los Angeles-based, heavyweight attorney Gloria Allred has requested an investigation by the California attorney general into the means by which Springland Films obtained individuals’ consent to appear in “Borat.” (Springland is the DBA — Doing Business As — name of One America, one of the film’s producers.)
Allred is representing Cindy Streit, the owner of Etiquette Training Service in Birmingham, Ala., and is claiming that the agreement Streit signed with Springland Films was to “be filmed as part of a documentary for Belarus Television and for those purposes only.”
Allred alleges that her client’s consent was obtained “through fraud and misrepresentation” in violation of the California Unfair Trade Practices Act.
Complaint comes a week after a lawsuit was filed by two U. of South Carolina frat boys who allege they were similarly deceived.
In “Borat,” released by 20th Century Fox, Streit appears in a dinner party scene, during which Borat — the Kazakh journalist portrayed by Baron Cohen — makes uncouth comments to guests, presents a bag filled, supposedly, with feces, and invites a hooker over.
At a press conference in Birmingham on Thursday, Allred said: “Ms. Streit had no idea that she, her business and certain individuals who were invited to participate in a dinner party were to appear in a major motion picture, or that they would be subjected to ridicule and humiliation. Ms. Streit certainly had no idea that an actor called ‘Borat’ would be coming and discussing defecation with her and be presenting her with what were allegedly his feces at the dinner party.”
For her part, Streit said: “I am mortified at forever being portrayed in an R-rated movie with the most horrifying, pornographic scene imaginable to me. When Borat and his camera crew left our dinner party a year ago, we were left in total shock, and no one told us it had all been a ruse. … In a sincere effort to support cultural differences and being a proud American and Southerner, I thought we could portray our Southern customs and culture to Belarus Television. I am outraged with the deception. How dare they?”
In a statement, Fox said, “Ms. Allred’s contentions on behalf of her client are nonsense. (Her client) signed written agreements with the production which clearly stated that a movie was being filmed, and that the movie could be distributed worldwide. Her fee was negotiated and paid. More than three weeks after filming completed, she asked for and received additional payment for the etiquette training services which she provided on film. And she signed an additional release.”
Allred told Daily Variety that she is asking the attorney general to “consider all appropriate relief” for her client, “including the disgorgement of profits.”
“I’m concerned — is this going to start a trend where members of the public can be victimized in order to earn a profit?” Allred said. “I’m concerned about the stampede to have ‘Borat’-like films victimizing other members of the public through deception. I don’t think they should be about to ride roughshod over the rights of innocent individuals.”
Allred said she has litigated similar cases involving reality TV and that “we’ve litigated successfully.”