Friends say Sacha Baron Cohen loves playing the fool, as long as you never see him being real
- Last Updated: 12:09 AM, May 6, 2012
- Posted: 9:42 PM, May 5, 2012
A couple year ago while on the set of Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo,” in which Sacha Baron Cohen played a crusty station master, the actor approached producer Graham King about a planned biopic on the rock band Queen.
“Sacha said that he really wanted the part of Freddie Mercury, and asked what he would have to do to get it,” an insider tells The Post. “Graham asked him to sing a few notes, and suddenly Sacha got really shy. He couldn’t do it. He must have done it later, in private, as he’s got the part, but it was interesting that someone so confident in his on-screen endeavors could be intimidated by a situation like that.”
Sure enough, the disconnect between the British actor-comedian and his characters, including Eastern European journalist Borat and flamboyant Austrian fashion icon Bruno, is about as sharp as it gets. How can you not scratch your head at the irony of a man who became famous for brazenly ambushing clueless politicians and civilians with outrageous questions, being, himself, a shy, well-mannered, religious chap who’d rather move to a remote part of Kazakhstan than show up in public out of costume?
This is, after all, a performer who, in the guise of idiotic b-boy Ali G, once asked Newt Gingrich, “Ain’t the problem that if there is a woman president, they’s gonna spend all their time on shopping, getting facials and new shoes?”
What could possibly intimidate that person? As it turns out, fame.
Cohen’s new movie, “The Dictator,” opens May 16, and anyone hoping that this new round of press interest will force the star to become more open about himself, his process and his private life is going to be disappointed.
Cohen almost never gives interviews out of character, and for “The Dictator,” he will be meeting the media as His Excellency, Admiral-General Aladeen, a bearded Mammar Khadafy-like figure who rules over the fictitious Middle Eastern realm of Wadiya. The movie’s plot finds the haughty dictator stripped of his power, dropped in New York and forced to work at a health food store with Anna Faris.
“I think that essentially I’m a private person, and to reconcile that with being famous is a hard thing,” Cohen once told Rolling Stone. “So I’ve been trying to have my cake and eat it, too — to have my characters be famous yet still live a normal life where I’m not trapped by fame and recognizability.”
To judge by assessments of Hollywood paparazzi, Cohen is living the dream.
“Sacha Baron Cohen is not only notorious for being one of the hardest celebrities to find and shoot in Hollywood, he’s also extremely notorious for being as obstructive and rude as he can to avoid having his photo taken,” says Owen Beiny, director of paparazzi operations at World Entertainment News Network. “He’s on my Top 10 list of ‘don’t bother with’ celebrities. It’s not worth the hassle.”