First came Borat, next came Bruno. Well, actually, first came Ali G, but it was Sacha Baron Cohen’s portrayal of the fictitious Kazakhstani reporter Borat that launched him to international superstardom. He is that guy: hated by as many people as he is loved.
His controversial characters delight some while appalling others, but it is the attention and hype that this actor is really after. Currently filming ‘The Dictator’, Baron Cohen will again personify a pretend man on a mission, this time a dictator gone undercover in Manhattan.
On paper, he is as successful as it gets. The winner of multiple Emmy awards, he has presented at awards shows and sits back to watch movie studios bid at the rights to his next films. He has created a niche for himself as an outlandish entertainer. Here’s the question: will he be taken seriously if and when he tries to act in a serious leading role?
Confirmed to star as Freddie Mercury in an upcoming film about the band Queen, Baron Cohen will be expected to make himself believable. Mercury, known for his musical talent and flamboyant costumes, would be a difficult role to play for any actor. Baron Cohen will have to adapt his improvisational tendencies to follow a script, most likely not written by him. He will not have real people to interview and mock; instead he will have no props to showcase except his own raw talent. Unlikely to be a ‘mockumentary’ of those struggling with HIV and AIDS, the film may or may not touch upon the sickness and fight of the singer-songwriter.
Because of his fame and reputation, Baron Cohen’s upcoming projects will be greeted with success wherever they premiere. Put simply, he fascinates people. He draws an audience looking for surprises, people who want water cooler conversation topics and status update materials. They will go see any film he stars in for just that: the hope of the next decade’s worth of quotes and funny one-liners. Let’s hope he can successfully conquer more serious and prestigious roles while still taking on the light hearted projects that made him so undoubtedly famous.