In its second weekend in theaters, Borat, Sacha Baron Cohen’s uproarious study in bear behavior, male nudity, and Pamela Anderson worship, officially became an international hit — grossing $28 million in North America and $15 million overseas. Unfortunately for Baron Cohen, despite all of Borat’s various cultural learnings of the US and A, he clearly missed this one: Mess with Americans and we will sue your pants off.
It all started on Nov. 9, when a lawsuit was filed against Twentieth Century Fox and several of the film’s producers on behalf of two anonymous young men associated with a South Carolina fraternity who drunkenly appear on camera spouting sexist and racist comments. The lawsuit claims that the filmmakers plied the students with alcohol, falsely led them to believe that the film would never be shown in the States, and promised that the name of their fraternity would not be revealed. The pair are seeking unspecified damages.
”The bottom line here is that my clients were taken advantage of for money,” says attorney Olivier Taillieu. ”They got them drunk, lied, and then got them to sign this release. It’s the only way they can get that kind of footage. You can’t just flat out tell people ‘We’re going to make complete fools out of you and get rich’ and expect them to go along with it.” (Baron Cohen declined to comment for this article and a studio spokesperson termed the suit ”meritless.”)
But Southern frat boys aren’t the only ones peeved. In what might be a subtle sign of solidarity with Kazakhstan, Russia announced Nov. 8 that it would ban the film — a rare instance of non-pornographic censorship in that country — because government officials allege that it could inflame tensions between religious and ethnic groups. A few nations over, villagers in the small Romanian town of Glod (which sadly translates as ”mud”), who appear early in the film as Borat’s neighbors and comrades, are trying to scrape together the funds to sue Baron Cohen for the way in which they are portrayed, according to the Associated Press. The villagers claim that Baron Cohen and his crew paid them just a few bucks a day and then humiliated them.
Which brings us to this lesson: Only in Hollywood can Pamela Anderson, frat boys, and mud be linked in such a pristine way.