Shooting any mockumentary is a difficult task when it requires the ability to convincingly hoodwink members of the public and draw them into whatever wacky scenarios the creative team has lined up, but it was twice as difficult for Sacha Baron Cohen to get away with Borat Subsequent Moviefilm for a number of reasons.
Not only did the bumbling Kazakh reporter become an international sensation after the first outing made over $260 million at the box office, making it more difficult than ever for the character’s creator to go incognito, but the Coronavirus pandemic swept across the world while shooting on the comedy sequel was ongoing.
Cohen had to disguise himself as Borat, who then disguised himself as other people in order to get the footage the production required, but the onset of COVID-19 made filming even more of a logistical nightmare, with vast swathes of the United States almost entirely locked down right when things were in full swing.
In a new interview, producer Monica Levinson admitted that the pandemic had everyone thinking on their feet, forcing Cohen to incorporate it into the narrative. In further commitment to the gimmick, Levinson revealed that the three-time Academy Award nominee remained in character when he ended up quarantining with several of the people he meets in Subsequent Moviefilm, and he also found himself exposed to the virus while shooting the Kazakhstan scenes in Romania for good measure.
“Everything we saw after COVID-19 was a whole new way of getting to the story points that we needed to hit. The brilliant idea came that he’s going to be in lockdown. Whose biggest nightmare would be to isolate and quarantine with Borat? Sacha had to be sent out, and our DPs had to be taken out of Romania. We had to finish it on a green screen because he was exposed to Covid-19 there.”
Having won two Golden Globes for Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical for both of the Borat movies, it’s probably time for Cohen to retire the role for good now that he’ll likely never get away with doing it again. However, you can’t deny the impressive lengths he’s gone to in order to deliver the two modern comedy classics in the first place.