|Sacha Baron Cohen|
Baron Cohen at the E! after party, January 2007
|Born||Sacha Noam Baron Cohen
13 October 1971
Hammersmith, London, England, United Kingdom
|Occupation||Actor, Comedian, Writer|
|Domestic partner(s)||Isla Fisher (engaged)|
Sacha Noam Baron Cohen (Hebrew: סשה נועם ברון כהן, born 13 October 1971) is an English actor, comedian, and writer, best known for playing Ali G, Borat Sagdiyev, and Brüno. In his routine, Cohen typically conducts interviews with respected figures while posing as one of his characters for comedic effect. Those he interviews ostensibly believe that the interviews are sincere and legitimate.
Baron Cohen's work has been recognized with several Emmy nominations, an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay, a BAFTA award, and a Golden Globe for Best Actor for his work in the feature film Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.
After the release of the film Borat, Baron Cohen stated that because the public had become too familiar with the characters, he would retire Borat and Ali G. Similarly, after the release of Brüno he has stated he would also retire the title character.
Baron Cohen was born in Hammersmith, west London, England, the youngest of three sons in a Jewish family. His mother was born in Israel while his father was originally from Wales. Baron Cohen's paternal grandfather was born in Pontypridd, Wales, and his maternal grandmother, who now lives in Haifa, Israel, was a ballet dancer originally from Germany. Baron Cohen's cousin is internationally renowned autism researcher Simon Baron Cohen.
Baron Cohen first attended St Columba's College Prep School, St Albans, Hertfordshire, before moving on to attend Haberdashers' Aske's Boys' School, a private school in Elstree, Hertfordshire, near London. He went on to the University of Cambridge, entering Christ's College, Cambridge, where he read History under Niall Ferguson and wrote his thesis on Jewish involvement in the American Civil Rights movement, with emphasis on the 1964 murders of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner in Mississippi.
At the Cambridge University Amateur Dramatic Club, Baron Cohen acted in plays such as Fiddler on the Roof (in which he played Tevye) and Cyrano de Bergerac. While at Cambridge, he performed in Habonim Dror Jewish theatre performances.
After leaving the university, Baron Cohen worked for a time as a fashion model, appearing in many fashion magazines. By the early 1990s, he was hosting a weekly programme on Windsor cable television's local broadcasts with Carol Kirkwood, who later became a BBC weather forecaster. He was fired by Windsor TV for broadcasting a lewd presentation for Valentine's Day. In 1995, Channel 4 was planning a replacement for its series The Word, and disseminated an open call for new television presenters. Baron Cohen sent in a tape of himself in the character of Kristo, a fictional television reporter from Albania (who developed into the Kazakhstani Borat), which caught the attention of a producer. Baron Cohen bided his time by hosting Pump TV from 1995-1996. In 1996 he began presenting the youth chat programme F2F for Granada Talk TV. The late nineties saw Cohen make his first feature film appearance in the British comedy The Jolly Boys' Last Stand, then in 2000 Cohen played the part of Super Greg for a series of TV commercials for Lee Jeans which never aired, yet the website for Super Greg created an internet sensation. He also attended Ecole Philippe Gaulier, studying under the great teacher and crediting Philippe Gaulier for enabling him to find the play and pleasure to create such characters as Ali G and Borat.
Baron Cohen appeared during 2-minute sketches as his fashion reporter Brüno on The Paramount Comedy Channel during 1998. He shot to fame when his comic character Ali G, an uneducated, boorish junglist, started appearing on the British television show The Eleven O'Clock Show on Channel 4, which first went to air 8 September 1998.
Da Ali G Show began in 2000, and won the BAFTA for Best Comedy in the following year. Also in 2000, Baron Cohen as Ali G appeared as the limousine driver in Madonna's 2000 video "Music", directed by Jonas Åkerlund, who was also responsible for directing the titles for Da Ali G Show.
In 2002, Ali G was the central character in the feature film Ali G Indahouse, in which he is elected to the British Parliament and foils a plot to bulldoze a community centre in his hometown, Staines. His television show was exported to the United States in 2003 (with new episodes set in America) for HBO.
Ali G's interviews with famous people (often politicians) gained notoriety partly because the subjects were not privy to the joke that Ali G, rather than being a real interviewer, was a comic character played by Baron Cohen. According to Rolling Stone magazine, Baron Cohen would always enter the interview area in character as Ali G, carrying equipment and appearing to be an insignificant crew member. He would arrive with a suited man, who the interviewee naturally thought was the interviewer. Baron Cohen, as Ali G, would sit down to begin conducting the interview by asking the interviewee some preliminary questions. The interviewee, however, would remain under the impression that the smartly-dressed director would be conducting the interview until short notice prior to cameras rolling: this would grant an advantage of surprise, whereby the interviewee would be less likely to opt out of the Ali interview prior to its commencement.
The resulting willingness of Baron Cohen's targets to answer his frequently risqué questions often created surprising conversations. Interviewees have included:
Baron Cohen is a supporter of Comic Relief, and (as Ali G) has hosted some interviews for benefit of the charity.
Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, a feature film with "Borat" at the centre, was screened at the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival and released in the United Kingdom on 2 November 2006, in the United States on 3 November 2006 and Australia 23 November 2006. The film is about a journey across the United States in an ice cream van, in which the main character is obsessed with the idea of marrying Pamela Anderson. The film is a mockumentary which includes interviews with various American citizens that poke fun at American culture, as well as sexism, racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, jingoism and Baywatch. Throughout the entirety of the film Borat speaks in presumably his native tongue of Kazakhstani; however, he is really speaking a mixture of Hebrew and Polish.
It debuted at the #1 spot in the US, taking in an estimated $26.4 million in just 837 theatres averaging $31,600 per theatre, the fourth highest per-theatre average of all time for movies opening wide (500 screens or more), behind Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest and Spider-Man.
Baron Cohen won the 2007 Golden Globe in the "Best Actor - Musical or Comedy" category, his sixth such award. Although Borat was up for "Best Motion Picture — Musical or Comedy", the film lost to Dreamgirls. On 23 January 2007, he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. He shared his nomination with the film's co-writers, Ant Hines, Peter Baynham, Sy Mordecai Finesto, Dan Mazer, and Todd Phillips.
Aside from the comic elements of his characters, Baron Cohen's performances are interpreted by some as reflecting uncomfortable truths about his audience. He juxtaposes his own Jewish lineage with the anti-Semitism of his character Borat.
In 2007, Baron Cohen published a travel guide as Borat, with dual titles: Borat: Touristic Guidings To Minor Nation of U.S. and A. and Borat: Touristic Guidings To Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, however on 21 December Baron Cohen announced he was retiring the character of Borat.
Another alter ego Sacha Baron Cohen performed as is 'Brüno', a flamboyantly gay Austrian fashion show presenter, who often lures his subjects, unwittingly, into making provocative statements and engaging in embarrassing behaviour, as well as leading them to contradict themselves, often in the same interview. Brüno asks the subjects to answer 'yes or no' questions with either "Vassup" (whats up), or "Ich don't think so" (No), or sometimes "Ach, ja!" (Ah ha!) or "Nicht, nicht" ("Nicht" means "not" in German). In one segment on Da Ali G Show he encouraged his guest to answer questions with either "Keep them in the ghetto" or "Train to Auschwitz". Brüno's main comedic satire pertains to the vacuity and inanity of the fashion and clubbing world. In May 2009 at the MTV Movie Awards, Baron Cohen appeared as 'Brüno' wearing a white angel costume, a white jock strap, white go-go boots and white wings, and did an aerial stunt where he dropped from a height (using wires) onto Eminem, Cohen landed on his lap and his rear in Eminem's face, prompting Eminem to exit the venue with fellow rappers D12 (staged as a malfunction, Eminem was in on the gag with Cohen and even rehearsed it, as exposed about a week after the show).
After an intense bidding war that included such Hollywood powerhouses as DreamWorks, Sony, and 20th Century Fox; Universal Pictures paid a reported $42.5 million for the rights to the movie. A number of shill companies and Web sites have been created in order to draw potential interviewees into interviews by creating an illusion of legitimacy.
Baron Cohen has encountered many controversies regarding some of his comic characters.
Baron Cohen guest-starred in the finale of the fifth season Curb Your Enthusiasm, with Dustin Hoffman as a guide to Heaven. He also provided the voice of the lemur king, King Julien, in DreamWorks' family movie Madagascar (2005) as well as its 2008 sequel, and appeared as Will Ferrell's arch rival the French Formula One speed demon Jean Girard in the 2006 hit Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. He also appeared alongside Johnny Depp in the 2007 film Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street as Signor Adolfo Pirelli.
Baron Cohen tends to avoid doing interviews out of character. However, in 2004, he did the talk show circuit appearing as himself on The Late Show with David Letterman, The Opie and Anthony Show, The Howard Stern Show, and others in order to promote the upcoming season of his show on HBO. He was also interviewed on NPR's All Things Considered. He also did an interview with Rolling Stone Magazine, published in November 2006, that the magazine labelled as "his only interview as himself". He also appeared in an interview out of character with Terry Gross on NPR's Fresh Air on 4 January 2007.
Baron Cohen has twice presented the MTV Europe Music Awards, first as Ali G on 8 November 2001, in Frankfurt, Germany, and then as Borat on 3 November 2005 in Lisbon, Portugal. Baron Cohen appeared out of character to accept an award at the British Comedy Awards in December 2006. He said at the time that Borat could not make it to the awards as "he's guest of honour at the Holocaust denial conference in Tehran", referring to the International Conference to Review the Global Vision of the Holocaust.
Borat Director Larry Charles explains that Baron Cohen generally appears in character partly to "protect his weakness", by focusing public interest on his characters rather than himself. His other reason, Newsweek claims, is that Baron Cohen is fiercely private: "...according to the UK press, his publicists denied not only that he attended a party for the London premiere of Borat, but also that a party even occurred."
Sports Illustrated's 6 November 2006 issue contains a column called "Skater vs. Instigator", which illustrates various amusing "parallels" between Baron Cohen and figure skater Sasha Cohen, ranging from their mutually held personal significance of the number 4, to their mutual romantic interests in redheads. Baron Cohen also featured on Rove! on 28 June 2009. Baron Cohen featured in the Time 100 list for 2007.
Baron Cohen is engaged to the Australian actress Isla Fisher. After three years of study, Fisher converted to Judaism in early 2007, and has received the approval of Baron Cohen's observant Jewish parents. On 19 October 2007, Fisher gave birth to a baby girl named Olive Baron Cohen in Los Angeles, California.
Baron Cohen has often been confused with the identity of one of his characters. When he posed as Borat to host the MTV Europe Music Awards in Lisbon, the central Hungarian news wire agency MTI reported that the host was 'Borat Sagdiyev'. As most Hungarian newspapers and television networks take MTI as their official source, the misinterpretation of the character spread rapidly in Hungary, with some sources (such as TV2) emphasizing that a Kazakhstani news reporter hosted the awards, while others (such as Index.hu) noticed and pointed out the error.
He spent a year in Israel at Kibbutz Rosh HaNikra and Kibbutz Beit HaEmek as part of the Shnat Habonim Dror, as well as taking part in the programme "Machon l'Madrichei Chutz L'Aretz" for Jewish youth movement leaders.
Baron Cohen frequently speaks in Hebrew while playing the anti-Semitic character Borat. He also sang the lyrics from an old Hebrew folk song in an episode of Da Ali G Show. In one of the deleted scenes of his movie, after being asked by the host-pastor to lead the table in a pre-meal prayer service, Cohen, in his character role of Borat, sings a lengthy hymn (not Hebrew) that has clear similarities to the Mussaf prayer service of the Jewish High Holidays. He actually repeatedly sings two Polish phrases (slightly mispronounced) "Excuse me ma'am do you speak English" and "Could you speak slowly please?"
|1995||Jack and Jeremy's Police 4||Execution victim||TV Special|
|1995||Pump TV||TV Presenter, UK regional cable channel||TV Special|
|1998||Live from the Lighthouse||Ali G||TV Special|
|1998–1999||The 11 O'Clock Show||Ali G||TV Series
|2000||The Jolly Boys' Last Stand||Vinnie|
|Da Ali G Show (UK)||Ali G/Borat Sagdiyev/Brüno||TV Series: 6 Episodes
|2002||Ali G Indahouse||Ali G/Borat Sagdiyev||Also Executive Producer/Writer|
|2003||Spyz||James Bond (Ali G)||Short Film
Also Executive Producer/Writer
|2003–2004||Da Ali G Show (US)||Ali G/Borat Sagdiyev/Brüno||TV Series: 12 Episodes
Also Executive Producer/Writer
|2005||Curb Your Enthusiasm||Larry's Guide #2||Season 5 Episode 10 "The End"|
|Madagascar||King Julien||Voice Only|
|2006||Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby||Jean Girard|
|Night of Too Many Stars: An Overbooked Event for
|Borat Sagdiyev||TV Special|
|Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan||Borat Sagdiyev||Also Producer/Writer|
|2007||Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street||Signor Adolfo Pirelli|
|2008||Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa||King Julien||Voice Only|
|MTV Europe Music Awards host
2001 (as Ali G)
2005 (as Borat)
|Sacha Baron Cohen|
Sacha Noam Baron Cohen|
October 13, 1971
Hammersmith, London, England
He also made a movie about the character Borat called Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. This movie made Cohen an international celebrity.
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