Former American Idol judge Paula Abdul had no clue she'd worked with Sacha Baron Cohen until a week before his film Bruno was released.

By Marcus Jones
October 10, 2019 at 06:20 PM EDT
Universal Pictures

Before Sacha Baron Cohen tackled U.S. politics in Who is America? he excelled at tricking vulnerable celebrities like Paula Abdul.

Appearing on Watch What Happens Live on Wednesday night, the former American Idol judge received a viewer question about how she ended up in Cohen’s 2009 film Bruno.

Abdul, who has really only spoken about her Bruno experience right around the time the movie was released, started off by explaining to host Andy Cohen how she was lured in the first place. “Look, I heard I was getting an International Artist of the Year award — I’m gonna show up. … I wanted to get that award.” Upon arriving to see “some crazy freak” dressed in plastic pants, Abdul assumed something quirky was afoot, attune to Japanese game shows she has participated in before.

She said she reached a whole new level of suspicion upon seeing Bruno had summoned the house’s Mexican gardeners to get on all fours and act as furniture for her and the prankster.

Abdul, dressed for an Idol taping she had later that day, felt woefully unprepared for her encounter with Bruno, and the production had prevented any members of her team from accompanying her.

She recalled that parts of the encounter did not make the scene, like Bruno kicking the poor chair-men and asking Abdul to don a velcro suit. The film does show the moment Abdul knew to leave though, when Bruno rolls out what Abdul described as a sushi-covered sumo wrestler.

Upon escaping, Abdul said she turned to her then-publicist and declared, “Thank god you didn’t sign any agreement,” but much to her horror, they replied, “Oh I had to, and it was in German.”

Abdul recruited famed attorney Marty Singer to try and get ahold of the footage, but all the numbers that Cohen and crew gave her team had been disconnected. Abdul spent months riddled with anxiety about what would happen to the footage.

Nearly a year later, the new publicist Abdul had hired after the Bruno fiasco began receiving requests for the reality judge to speak about working with Cohen. Abdul adamantly answered the requests with “I haven’t worked with Sacha Baron Cohen! I think he’s a genius, but I haven’t worked with him.”

Abdul didn’t realize Cohen was the host who terrorized her until one night when she decided to google him and finally saw images of him as Bruno. “It was a week before the opening,” Abdul said, “and I wasn’t even invited.”

When the Watch What Happens Live host jokingly asked “Would you have gone?” Abdul paused a beat, and exclaimed: “I’ll show up at anything.”

Watch Abdul tell the full story on Watch What Happens Live above, and the classic Bruno clip below.

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