Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Why I love Sacha Baron Cohen

Borat, Bruno and Ali G.  Three genius comic creations, one actor.  Offensive and crude but often subversive in a way only a comedy genius can be, Sacha Baron Cohen is the Peter Sellers of our generation.  His characters are despicable stereotypes but their purpose is usually to bring out the prejudices, hatred and plain stupidity of average Joes.

Sexist, racist and homophobic; all appropriate words to descibe his comedy characters and jokes in his films often cover controversial subjects like incest, rape and people with disabilities (sometimes all in one joke).  But the real butt of the jokes are often the people he dupes into playing along with his absurd acts; the anti-Semites, the homophobes, but also, less effectively, the feminists and the poor people of a Romanian village who thought they were appearing in a documentary (actually the opening scene of Borat).

Ever since I first saw Ali G interviewing a brilliantly chosen range of the powerful, the political, the left wing, the right wing and more on the 11 O'Clock show on British TV, it was clear that SBC had a huge talent for creating characters and using them to draw out hilarious responses from people who should know better.  The Ali G movie then forgot about the use of real people and suffered hugely from glamorising Ali G's sexism and stupidity and revelling in his ridiculous world view.

However then came Borat and Bruno and director Larry Charles returned SBC to his TV roots by using a mockumentary approach that meant putting these crazy comic creations in the frame with an oddball bunch of 'ordinary' Americans.  The results are hilarious with SBC's dedicated performances (and staying in character in all promotional duties) being much funnier alongside the responses of shocked, gullible members of the public.

But the reason that SBC is on my mind today is the news that Tarantino has just bagged him for a role in Django Unchained.  This is one of my most anticipated movies of 2012 with a cast that is looking outstanding; Leo DiCaprio, Jamie Foxx, Kurt Russell, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Samuel L. Jackson, Christoph Waltz and more.

Now SBC has had a few roles in movies where he has played a character not of his own creation.  Talladega Nights pitted him as a French race car driver against Will Ferrel's idiotic Ricky Bobby.  Tim Burton cast him as a rival barber to Depp's Sweeney Todd and Madagascar featured him as the voice of a singing lemur.  None of these let SBC off the leash to give us the kind of comic shocks that his self-made creations have however.

Nevertheless in under a month we will get to see SBC under Scorcese's dirction as a station inspector in Hugo.  From the trailer it looks like another reigned in performance and since this is a kids movie, it looks unlikely that this will be SBC off the chain.  But then in 2012, we will get SBC's latest creation in a re-team with director Larry Charles, The Dictator.  Based on a book apparently written about and by Saddam Hussein and featuring a great cast, this promises to be controversial shocking comedy at its best with SBC taking the title role in another of his fish-out-of-water comedies.  It's just a shame it's not using the mock-doc format again as it would be interesting to see how the people of America really react to this character.

Which now brings us back to Tarantino's latest, filming and hopefully released in 2012.  SBC will play a gambler and according to Empire Online, 'Tarantino specifically sought Cohen for the role'.  So it may be a minor role but if there is one modern comedy actor who can make an impression, it should be SBC.  Tarantino's scripting excellence coupled with SBC's perfect comic timing could equal something very special.

If all that doesn't excite you, then how about the news that SBC is about to take on his biggest and arguably most important role to date.  According to the BBC, SBC will be portraying the legendary singer and front man of Queen, Freddie Mercury.  No matter what you think of the comedy of Baron-Cohen, his performances while not perhaps subtle so far have been nothing short of amazing.  He immerses himself in a character and we all know that these comedy actors can often pull incredible dramatic performances out of the bag when given the opportunity.  SBC is charismatic (when in character) and can sing though I doubt they'll try and get him to compete with Mercury's own vocals.  If this project gets underway, I reckon we could be seeing SBC getting awards, maybe even an Oscar for this one.

What do you think?  Excited for SBC's future?  Wish he'd just disappear or get sued into bankruptcy?  Drop a comment and let me know!