Isla Fisher is a saint. That’s all I can conclude from the story today about Sasha Baron Cohen’s method acting proclivities during the making of Borat. The “cultural learnings” may have “make benefit glorious nation of Kazakhstan”, but Baron Cohen’s apparent insistence on remaining in character for every waking minute must have gotten absolutely infuriating. We all learned during the film’s popularity just how annoying prolonged Borat impressions could be. Even the original must have gotten absolutely excruciating for months at a time.
Fisher was quoted as saying she was willing to endure Borat in the bedroom. Just stop for a moment to envisage what a shocking scenario that must be. Apparently he never washes his suit, so you can only imagine the stench. Then, there’s the requirement to engage in acts of intimacy with someone sporting that moustache. But most painful of all, without doubt, would be the language. We all know how Borat invites someone to become intimate with him. So that must mean that Fisher, incredibly, responded to his garbled requests to make romance inside of her with a “yes”. Which, surely, goes far beyond the call of duty for even the most devoted of girlfriends.
And really, as brilliant a character actor as Baron Cohen undoubtedly is, surely it isn’t absolutely necessary to remain in character 100% of the time? I mean, we’ve all read that he refuses to improvise in press conferences, forcing journalists to stick to a specific list of situations for which he’s pre-written funny answers. It’s not exactly hallmark of an obsessive method actor, who tries to inhabit the character completely. Perhaps he has a pre-scripted bedroom routine, from which Isla isn’t allowed to deviate?
She’s apparently drawn the line at Bruno, the gay Austrian fashion reporter who’ll doubtlessly be accused of promoting homophobia when his next movie comes out. But surely if Baron Cohen’s that devoted to method, he won’t be spending the night with women anyway.
This story made me wonder whether it’s common for actors to insist on remaining in character in the bedroom. Did De Niro force all of his partners to bunk down with the Taxi Driver during the making of that film? Did Andy Serkis insist on retaining Gollum’s voice while he got it on with his “precioussss”? And I don’t even want to think about whether Paul Reubens remained in his Pee-Wee Herman character when he disgraced himself in that theatre.
Sure, I can see how this might be an advantage sometimes. Hugh Jackman remaining in the role of the Wolverine might be a bit of fun for Deborah-Lee Furness of an evening, his Peter Allen role less so. And, while we’re on X-Men, who would turn down the chance to get it on with Mystique, even though you’d ended up daubed in blue body paint?
But for the most part, this staying-in-character stuff seems terribly pretentious. If our nation’s – probably the world’s – finest character actor, the man of a thousand hilarious cricket voices, the Twelfth Man, doesn’t feel the need to commentate his bedroom action in a mixture of Bill Lawry and Richie Benaud (and, dear God, I hope for his partner’s sake he doesn’t), then Sasha Baron Cohen has no excuse. Give our Isla a break, Sasha. Leave Borat where he ought to be – a long way from the bedroom.