Sacha Baron Cohen has revealed that his 2006 film Borat nearly obliterated trade relations between the UK and Kazakhstan.
Speaking on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast, Cohen said that his bumbling Kazakhstani reporter Borat prompted the country’s then President Nursultan Nazarbayev to confront Tony Blair on the matter.
“After Borat, Nazarbayev contacted the British Prime Minister, who was Tony Blair at the time,” Cohen said.
“He later on admitted to me that Nazarbayev said, ‘alright, I want you to stop this guy from releasing this film. I want you to end Borat.’
“Blair said: ‘It’s not a dictatorship here. I can’t do that.’
“Blair contacted me about a year after, he had to leave office. He said, ‘you put me in a difficult position because we were doing trade with Kazakhstan. You embarrassed me.’”
“He thought it was quite funny.”
Cohen will be returning to Eastern Europe to promote his latest comedy Grimsby. It’ll be the first time he’s been back to the region since stirring up controversy with Borat.
“You put me in a difficult position because we were doing trade with Kazakhstan. You embarrassed me.”
The actor told Maron that he came close to going back to Kazakhstan during the promotional tour for Borat, only to have the plans axed after he was deemed a security risk.
“They realised at one point ‘let’s embrace him’,” Cohen explained. “Fox got worried because of the death threats. They hired specialist security, who are usually complete morons.
“I was swimming in Sydney on the tour and this guy didn’t know – he starts walking in his full clothes into the water.
“They did a security assessment of Kazakhsytan and said it was impossible to secure me.”
Borat eventually became a huge box office hit and won Cohen an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. He followed it up with comedies Brüno and The Dictator.
Grimsby, in which he plays an England football fan drawn into an espionage plot, is showing in UK cinemas now.