It’s been several months since “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” debuted on Amazon Prime Video, and yet there are still revelations to be discovered about the film’s internet-breaking climax with Rudy Giuliani. In a new Variety profile, Sacha Baron Cohen reveals the former mayor of New York City refused to take a coronavirus rapid test when he showed up to a hotel suite for the “Borat 2” mock interview, thus violating the production’s safety protocols and potentially endangering the lives of the crew and interviewer Maria Bakalova, all of whom to Giuliani’s knowledge at the time were a legitimate documentary team.
“There was this debate of what do we do?” Baron Cohen said. “Do we go ahead with this scene? What happens if he has coronavirus? We concluded that it was worth the risk.”
Giuliani attended the fake “Borat 2” interview thinking he was participating in a real documentary titled “Keeping America Alive.” The crew told Giuliani the documentary was about Trump’s efforts to defeat the pandemic, and the “Borat 2” team even cooked up a sizzle real to make the fake project seem more real (the sizzle’s tagline read: “Where Trump saw an invisible enemy, the Democrats saw an invisible friend”).
Filming of the Giuliani scene did not result in any coronavirus tests (although that doesn’t excuse the potential danger that’s created by refusing a test in a professional setting), but the “Borat 2” production did come face to face with the pandemic while filming select scenes in Romania (the country was used as the stand in for Kazakhstan).
Variety reports: “Baron Cohen and several crew members shared a set with two actors who later tested positive for COVID-19. The Borat team chartered a plane and flew the exposed cast and crew to Los Angeles in case they needed medical care. No one came down with the virus, but the rest of Baron Cohen’s scenes in Romania were shot using a double, and he was later digitally inserted into the footage with green screen technology.”
Baron Cohen also revealed to Variety that “Borat 2” emerged after he scrapped an idea to create a movie centered around his “Who Is America?” character Erran Morad, an Israeli anti-terrorism expert. Baron Cohen had already finished a draft of the Erran Morad movie when he decided to axe it in favor of reviving Borat. None of these projects would’ve been possible had Baron Cohen not gotten over his fear of returning to undercover comedy.
“After ‘Bruno,’ I was fairly traumatized,” Baron Cohen said. “For about six months afterwards whenever I heard a police siren, I would start to get tense, because I’d been chased by the police so much. I vowed never to make another undercover movie again.”
Head over to Variety’s website to read the Baron Cohen cover story in its entirety. For more on the climactic Rudy Giuliani scene, read IndieWire’s oral history.
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