WWhen director Jason Woliner first received the encrypted script for a new top-secret film that Sacha Baron Cohen was working on, the word “Borat” was nowhere to be found.
“Even if he had run away somehow, I think anyone could have understood that he probably wasn’t making a movie about a Guatemalan journalist named Alexi,” Woliner jokes on the episode. from this week. The last laugh Podcast.
For Baron Cohen to succeed Next Borat movie, he had to make sure no one knew exactly what he was doing. And he wasn’t the only one in disguise. Throughout filming, which lasted nearly a year, Woliner took on a secret identity, bleaching his blonde hair to become “Chris,” the director of the mock documentary the crew gave to targets without. mistrust.
“Ash thought I would be more trustworthy for the kind of people we were touring with,” Woliner says. “I would sound less coastal … less, uh, ‘globalist’ maybe.”
Woliner, a former child actor who grew up Jewish in the Bronx, fell on Baron Cohen’s radar after directing some of the most ambitious episodes in Nathan Fielder’s Comedy Central series. Nathan for you. Prior to that, he was co-creator of the influential Human giant group of sketches, with frequent collaborator Aziz Ansari and a director on beloved comedy shows like Parks and recreation, The last man on earth, and What we do in the shadows.
And yet, he had never directed a feature film when Baron Cohen approached him to direct the sequel to what Woliner calls “the funniest movie ever made.”
“I just came in really strong,” he recalls their first meeting. “I was just very passionate about it. I was like, look, Borat is my favorite comedy. I think it’s the funniest movie ever made. It is probably a mistake to make a sequel. There is probably no way it will be good.
He was hired almost immediately and set out to prove himself wrong. The results, from a groundbreaking Oscar-worthy performance by newcomer Maria Bakalova as Tutar, Borat’s daughter, to topical stunts at CPAC, a rally of far-right militias and the Rudy Giuliani’s hotel room – much more on that below – speak for themselves.
“Even from the first meeting, Ash was very determined to get it done before the election, to make a statement about what America has become under Trump,” Woliner says of the surprising political impact of the movie. Knowing how close the 2016 election was, he thought, “If people can see this and it motivates some people to go out and vote or motivates others not to vote for Trump, it sounds very meaningful.
As for how he follows such a propitious feature debut, Woliner teases a “different genre-leaping, hard to identify” storyline he wrote about “Small Town America” that Adam McKay agreed to do. produce. He expects this movie to be “just as difficult, maybe more” than the one he just finished, adding, “I think I’m just a punishment glutton.”
Below is a snippet of our conversation and you can listen to it in full – including a savage story about how ‘Chris’ almost got beaten up after the outrageous debutante ballroom dance scene – right now in subscribing to The last laugh on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts.
How did you choose Rudy Giuliani as the big target for the climax of this film? Because he’s always been relevant, but you couldn’t know he would be as relevant as both of them were leading to and since the election.
No. And especially since. It was that crazy month after the election where he felt like he was almost trying to do so many crazy things that people stopped talking about the scene in our movie. He was the name in the first screenplay I got, so it was something on Ash’s mind and the writers’ mind from the very beginning. We wanted to have someone in Trump’s inner circle. We talked about other ideas, but we always came back to Rudy. And sort of just before the election, I think because he was that kind of ax man who came after Biden via the laptop and everything, he became the big story. If anything, this scene shows how easy it was to get Rudy. It’s hard to imagine a time when he had any credibility, two months later, but it may have helped to undermine him or at least just take the wind out of the sails of what they hoped was a surprise d ‘October.
I’m just mesmerized by everything that got Maria into the room with him. There seems to be a lot of things we haven’t seen in the movie. Because I know she did it all, including posing as a conservative journalist and making a connection with OAN and Chanel Rion and then she was in the White House and all that. Can you talk about what it took to get her into the room with Rudy?
It’s a very delicate process and we have an amazing team who know how to attract people, both top people and regular people, and there are different ways of doing it. It’s a little protected because to redo this work, they are just very secret about this thing. But we did a lot of filming, so the OAN thing was something where we were like, let’s see if we can get Tutar to the White House. Let’s just try. And we were able to get in touch with OAN and we knew we had a window of time before Maria’s name was made public. You can’t go to the White House without giving your real ID. So we knew Maria couldn’t do something like this for very long. OAN was extremely easy to cheat. It is not a real press organization, it is a propaganda organization. And so we took her to the White House with Chanel Rion, no COVID testing is required. And she was herded with Larry Kudlow and she was in the briefing room. And you could actually see – and I don’t think it was in the little clip that we released – but that day, [Jared] Kushner was doing an interview on the White House lawn with Fox Business and you can just see Borat’s daughter Tutar walking around in the background of the photo. And so that was one of those things that we were like, yeah, let’s send it out and see what we get out of it.
But it’s crazy that she got to the White House and it’s not in the movie. I think if you were to say that to anyone without seeing the movie, they’d be like, “Wait, what? How does that not appear in the movie? “
Yeah, that’s crazy. When you put it like that, it’s pretty amazing that we were able to get Borat’s daughter in the White House, in the press conference room during a pandemic. We gave him a COVID test. And then a week later I think it was a week after he arrived there was that first massive outbreak of Rose Garden Party, where all of the staff caught COVID and showed how bad the situation is. crazy in terms of security.
“OAN was extremely easy to cheat. It is not a real press organization, it is a propaganda organization.“
So back to Rudy. What did you think when you saw the footage of the two in the hotel room after the interview? Because there has been a lot of debate about What happened in this scene.
Well, I watched it as it went. I was in a somewhat hidden control room right there. And Ash was hiding in a cubby that we had built in a little closet and he and I were texting each other because he couldn’t see what was going on. And so I looked at the thread. There were hidden cameras, obviously. So we can’t communicate with Maria, but we’re just trying to text Ash to figure out when is the right time to jump.
Yeah, how far do you want this stuff to go?
Yes, because at some point it’s not funny anymore. It’s just a prick operation. So we text him, we watch. So they do this interview. He’s saying all these shocking things about COVID and all these racist things about the Chinese. And then we have the first beat of it when Sacha comes in as a boom guy and that’s the first step. There’s a chance, first step, that he sees Sacha in what I think is the most absurd costume in the movie – it might explode. Rudy could be like, what the fuck is this? And it is not. If we just have that, maybe we could put something together. We didn’t just want to get this, but every step of the way we will try again. There was actually a beat that we shot where we pushed into a room service tray and Sacha was hiding underneath. We were doing this kind of wacky thing where he was trying to communicate with her again and we ended up cutting him out of the movie. Again, Rudy didn’t find anything weird, his radar didn’t go up.
Maybe not the most observant person.
Maybe not. But I will say, in person, I took him in the elevator. I brought him into the room. I presented them and left. But you see him on TV and he looks so crazy. He was more with it than I expected. It just looked a lot sharper than we imagine now. And then the interview takes place and she talks about her nervousness and her admiration. And then the interview ends and they go to the bedroom. And of course, there are no cameras visible in the bedroom. And then it’s really as you see it. He touches her shoulder, he asks for her number. He sits down on the bed, he touches her lower back. And every moment of that, we were watching, thinking, “Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God.”
That’s what I thought while watching the movie!
Yeah, imagine watching this in real life, a few feet away. And then he goes to bed and puts his hand on his pants. My jaw hit the ground. It was one of those moments you will never forget. And that’s when we said, “OK, Sacha, I think it’s time to come in now.”
So you didn’t buy the ‘I was just tucking my shirt’ excuse?
You know, I’ve been doing this for a long time. I have seen a lot of people apply and remove microphones. I have never seen anyone lay down on a bed and put their hands in their pants.
It was the moment in the movie where I was just like, I can’t believe they did this. It’s just crazy.
It was pretty crazy. And also, from a movie point of view, what was the most exciting for me about it was that I’ve never seen anything like it in a movie where you basically take a real life villain and that you use it as the villain in a movie that they don’t know they’re in. And play that scene only in the context of it, after watching the story, knowing what Tutar is going through, knowing that [Borat] tries to prevent it from happening, by doing this very romantic comic – doing it all with a real person who doesn’t know they’re in a movie and who is also one of the biggest figures in national news for an election in a week, I was very excited to try and attempt that. And it was quite fun.
Next week on The last laugh Podcast: Standing actor and former SNL member Colin Quinn.
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