The current wave of Boratmania has made some journalists huffy over Sacha Baron Cohen’s refusal to be interviewed except in character as the Kazakh buffoon – and over media outlets’ willingness to play his game. According to this line of thinking, interviewing Borat as if he were a real person not only deprives readers of any insight into Baron Cohen’s actual motivations and lets him off the hook as far as explaining the controversies he’s generated, but it also makes his interviewers into willing shills for the movie. (EW interviewed SBC as Borat, too, but at least we did it back in August, when such interviews were still a fun novelty, before he had beaten into the ground the jokes about drinking fermented horse urine that have been his stock answers as Borat has made the rounds in print and on TV.)
I don’t really buy this reasoning. Let’s face it, every time an actor gives an interview, it’s a performance. He’s always in character, even if the character is simply a politer, more charming, more gracious version of himself. Actors tend to come to interviews with an agenda and a set of scripted responses to anticipated questions. That doesn’t mean they’re being dishonest, though some actors I’ve interviewed have lied to my face. But it does mean you have to take what they say with some skepticism. By agreeing to publish the interview, an outlet has already acquiesced to the first item on the actor’s agenda, which is to publicize his movie. Getting the actor to say something informative is gravy. At least Borat generates interviews that are fun to read.
Anyway, those naysayers can stop griping because Sacha Baron Cohen has finally granted an interview as himself (pictured), to Rolling Stone. The magazine has posted an extended excerpt, and alas, it’s not too full of surprises. As you might have guessed, Baron Cohen says that characters like Ali G and Borat are masks that allow him liberties he couldn’t take as himself, and that his movie is more about exposing prejudice and ignorance in America than making fun of Kazakhstan. Maybe there are juicier revelations in the part of the interview that’s not online, or maybe he just doesn’t generate user-friendly sound bites the way his alter egos do. Or maybe the “Sacha Baron Cohen” who spoke to RS is also a character, a performance. Oh well, guess next time it’s back to horse pee.