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Sacha Baron Cohen on His Fear of Getting Shot While Filming ‘Borat Subsequent Moviefilm’

Also in this episode of Variety's Awards Circuit Podcast, "Soul" co-director and "One Night in Miami" writer Kemp Powers discusses his incredible year.

Sacha Baron Cohen Variety Cover Story
Steven Chee for Variety

Sacha Baron Cohen is having a good week; the star of both “The Trial of the Chicago 7” and “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” went into the Golden Globe Awards on Sunday night with acting noms for both films and a nod for “Borat” for best picture – musical or comedy. He walked away with two trophies (well, technically they’re being sent to him) for his work on “Borat.” And he’s nominated for two SAG Awards for “Chicago 7,” both in the supporting category for portraying Abbie Hoffman and for his work in the ensemble.

It’s all a bit overwhelming for the actor; on the day he spoke to Variety’s Awards Circuit podcast in February, he was coming off a 48-hour period where he had just landed all the accolades, and was still processing it. Listen below!

Discussing his “Chicago 7” cast mates, Cohen said, “I sent them all an email today, saying that it’s slightly ironic that I should be chosen for best supporting because I believe that I’m the eighth best actor there.  And that’s being generous.”

In fact, Cohen joked of shooting the film, “I was going to be uncovered in ‘Chicago 7’ as not being a good enough actor and would be fired.” That was preferable to shooting “Borat,” however, were he was genuinely scared he was going to be shot.

Cohen details his experiences on both films, including how he pursued the role of Abbie Hoffman for several years, first when “Chicago 7” was with director Steven Spielberg. “I called him up, which was a slightly cheeky thing to do,” Cohen recalled.  Spielberg expressed concern that that British actor could pull off Hoffman’s specific accent, and had Cohen record one of his infamous speeches on a CD – except Cohen accidentally sent him all of the practice takes, as well. “So he had spent about an hour listening to me do this speech.”

When it came to “Borat,” Cohen had been very open about not wanting to reprise the character but felt it was necessary to make this movie and get it released before the election. And because the new storyline involved the feminist journey of Borat’s daughter Tutar (Maria Bakalova), three new female writers were brought on to the film: Nina Pedrad, Eric Rivinoja and Jena Friedman. Cohen credits them with some of the most talked-about moments in the film.

“We wanted to make this movie to tackle that issue of the patriarchy, and we knew that we were a bunch of guys,” he noted. “So we got in these three brilliant women, because there was no way that we’re going to be able to write as well for a female character and to explore these issues. You know, would never have done have had the courage to do a scene that was about menstruation. We needed these brilliant three brilliant writers were like, no, this is what we need to be saying, ‘This is a taboo, why on earth should women feel embarrassed? It’s completely natural.’”

Cohen also revealed that when he shot “Bruno” as a follow-up to the first “Borat,” he landed a cameo by Harrison Ford, only to have the actor show up in glasses and a sweatshirt, not quite looking like one would expect. Recalled Cohen, “I go, ‘Hold on. You don’t look enough like Harrison Ford.’ He was like, ‘What do you mean, I am Harrison Ford.’” For was a good sport, he added, “In the end, all credit to him. He took the shirt off. The writer took his shirt off and gave it to Harrison Ford. He wore it and took his glasses off when we shot the scene.”

Also on this episode of the Awards Circuit Podcast, Variety film awards editor Clayton Davis talks to Kemp Powers about his incredible year. Coming off co-writing Pixar’s animated feature “Soul,” which Powers co-directed with Pete Docter, he also adapted his own play, “One Night in Miami,” for debut feature director Regina King. He discusses the process of bringing his own work to the big screen, along with being the first Black director of a Pixar film.

And in the Awards Circuit Podcast roundtable, we recap the Golden Globes, and what it means for the rest of awards season.

Variety’s “Awards Circuit” podcast, hosted by Clayton Davis, Jenelle Riley, Jazz Tangcay and Michael Schneider (who produces), is your one-stop listen for lively conversations about the best in film and television. Each week “Awards Circuit” features interviews with top film and TV talent and creatives; discussions and debates about awards races and industry headlines; and much, much more. Subscribe via Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify or anywhere you download podcasts. New episodes post every Thursday.