Sacha Baron Cohen Talks Borat Film Process in Interview With Ben Affleck

Molly Houghton

entertainment /
Larry Busacca / Staff via Getty Images

Funny guy Sasha Baron Cohen sat down with actor Ben Affleck for a virtual interview. The stars chatted Borat and more for Variety Magazine's Actors on Actors series, presented by Amazon Studios.

Sacha Baron Cohen Interview
Angela Weiss / Contributor via Getty Images

"I was a massive Ali G Show fan," Affleck admitted before diving into questions about the Borat sequel. "The best Borat stuff is when you're suffering watching it, because you're so... uncomfortable with what's happening. How many of these setups of real people do you have to go through before you get somebody who will behave in this unselfconscious way?" he asked.

The Ali G Show
Instagram via @sachabaroncohen

Shockingly, Cohen said that about "80% of people that we shot ended up in the movie." The producer added that there are no actors mixed in with the non-actors. "These field producers go out; they interview the people sometimes on Zoom," he explained. "And on the day, I'll have a code word with my co-writer who's watching live. And the cameraman has a code word for me. Then I know we're in sync."

Borat 2
Instagram via @sachabaroncohen

The British actor said that unlike the first Borat film and his 2009 mockumentary Bruno, his most recent picture had a screenplay. "We were like, 'Let's do a table read.' And then the night before, we realized, 'We don't have the real people's lines,'" Cohen shared. "So we quickly wrote in the lines, what we hoped they would say. We had a bunch of comedy writers and directors turn up, and they're like, "Oh this is great. But you know, obviously, this is going to be impossible to make."

Sacha Baron Cohen, Bruno
Instagram via @sachabaroncohen

Ben then moved on to discussing Sacha's other big role of 2020: that of Flower Power activist Abbie Hoffman in The Trial of the Chicago 7. "You go from having the ability to completely improvise fluidly. Is it difficult for you, then, to go work for Sorkin [Chicago 7 director]? Or do you find it liberating because you don't have to think of anything except the lines?" Affleck asked.

"I'd heard his reputation," Baron said. "And I did wonder, 'Why are you casting me, well-known improviser, to deliver special lines?' And I spent probably about two months pitching him alternative lines because I read everything that Abbie Hoffman had written. Aaron was nice enough to humor me. Each time he'd say, 'Thank you, but no.'" There's a whole lot more that went down, and you can watch the full Variety interview here.