Sacha Baron Cohen starred in two high-profile movies last year. In Netflix’s “Trial of the Chicago 7,” he plays hippie activist Abbie Hoffman, whose commitment to the anti-war movement is matched only by his sarcastic wit.
In Baron Cohen’s other 2020 effort, Amazon’s “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” he reprises his role as the hapless Kazakhstani journalist. Freed from prison, Borat is sent to the United States in order to ingratiate his home country to Donald Trump. Specifically, Borat has been directed to give Jonny the Monkey to Trump as a gift. But after Tutar (Maria Bakalova), Borat’s 15-year-old daughter, eats Jonny the Monkey while stowed away in a crate with him en route to the U.S., Borat has to make other plans. So he decides he will give Tutar to someone close to Trump.
When his efforts to give Tutar to Mike Pence are thwarted by security at CPAC, Borat switches gears, and hones in on giving her to Rudy Giuliani.
But the encounter between Bakalova and Giuliani — the kind of prank the comedian and actor has pulled a million times over the course of his career — unfolded in a way that surprised even Baron Cohen. After completing a fake interview, Giuliani accompanies Bakalova’s Tutar into the bedroom of a hotel suite, with drinks in their hands, and asks for her “phone number and your address” as he suggestively pats her back. After she removes his microphone, Giuliani lies down on the bed, and puts his hands down his pants (he has said since he was tucking in his shirt). Borat then bursts into the room in lingerie, and offers himself to Giuliani: “She’s 15! She’s too old for you!”
The incident has now been added to the ever-growing list of Giuliani’s disgraces.
During Baron Cohen’s conversation with Ben Affleck (“The Way Back”) for Variety’s Actors on Actors series, presented by Amazon Studios, Affleck professed himself “shocked by the Giuliani interview, and the subsequent sort of bedroom weirdness that happened.”
“I really wonder whether you came running in because you thought, ‘If I let this go any longer, something really horrible is going to happen,” Affleck said.
Baron Cohen described the scene’s set up, during which he was hiding in a wardrobe with a nearly dead cellphone he was relying on in order to monitor what was happening between Giuliani and Bakalova. “I never thought that he was actually going to go into the room with her,” Baron Cohen said.
“I mean, I was hoping for the movie they would,” Baron Cohen continued. “But also as a producer and a director, I have an actress there who I need to look after — and protect as well — because we’re putting her in a situation with a powerful man who may or may not have been in this situation beforehand.”
Baron Cohen said he was trying in vain to get the phone to work when he heard Giuliani in the bedroom. “I got the instruction to run in there,” Baron Cohen said. “I didn’t know that he was on the bed.”
“It was shocking!” Affleck interjected. “And it appeared as ‘we better go in now, before this turns into something that is so horrible that we can’t even put it in the movie — it becomes evidence in a court case,’ or something.”
“Yeah,” Baron Cohen answered. “We were scared that it would veer into an even more ugly situation.”
Despite Giuliani’s degradation, he called on his private security to deal with Baron Cohen and Bakalova. According to Baron Cohen, the security guard tried to detain them in the filmmakers’ suite. Still in character as Borat, Baron Cohen kicked them out: “I go, ‘You leave the room right now!’ So we had an escape route, but Rudy called the cops. He was aware it was not going to look good.”
Affleck marveled at Baron Cohen’s brazenness: “You have this extraordinary capacity to get these powerful people to expose themselves.”
Watch the full conversation below.