Vincent Sandoval/Getty Sacha Baron Cohen
In a new profile with Variety, the comedian and actor spoke about the making of Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, and how he felt he had to revive the character in order to shed light on the dangers he saw threatening democracy.
"I felt democracy was in peril, I felt people’s lives were in peril and I felt compelled to finish the movie," Baron Cohen told the outlet. (In 2007, the actor said he'd be retiring the Borat character but then reprised the character briefly before the 2016 election to warn Americans about voting for Trump.)
However, the onset of the coronavirus pandemic struck fear in the production team, with the film's producer and co-writer, Anthony Hines, telling Variety that he "was emotionally resigned to the fact that this was not going to happen before the election."
"It seemed to be dead in the water. I thought we’d have to reinvent the movie," Hines said.
Baron Cohen, 49, on the other hand, felt even more determined to finish the movie after seeing how President Donald Trump went about handling the situation.
"The movie was originally about the danger of Trump and Trumpism. What coronavirus demonstrated was that there’s a lethal effect to his spreading of lies and conspiracy theories," he said.
Rachel Luna/Getty Images; MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images
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"Rather than run away from how the world was dealing with coronavirus, I felt we should lean into it," Baron Cohen added. "Borat is a fake character, played by me, in a real world. … If we got people to take their masks off, it would be a fake character in a fake world, in a manipulated world, so the basis of the comedy wouldn’t work."
With that in mind, the filmmakers decided to incorporate the pandemic into the plot of the film, and the team worked with public health experts from Johns Hopkins University to develop safety protocols to move forward with filming.
The movie finally premiered in October, following the original 2006 film. Many film critics praised the heavily improvised political satire, including Entertainment Weekly's Leah Greenblatt, who suggested the comedy showed audiences "exactly what we need to see" in 2020.