Sacha Baron Cohen Biography
Sacha was born in December 1970. His mother, Daniella, is from Israel and his father, Gerald, is from Wales. The Baron Cohen family owns several businesses based both in London and the Cardiff area, namely ‘Baron Suits’ in London’s Knightsbridge, ‘Calders Outfitters’ and ‘Woodford Ltd.’ in Cardiff.
From 1974, Sacha attended Haberdasher’s-Akes public school along with his two brothers, Erran and Amnon.
Apparently, even in these early days Sacha was making quite an impression on other people. An old teacher commented on Sacha’s abundance of creativity and an old schoolmate remembered: “He seemed to have[his basketball permanently attached to his right hand which was funny in a school without a basketball team!” It was at Haberdasher’s that Sacha first met Dan Mazer, who was to become the producer of ‘Ali G’ years later.
Being Jewish had an impact on our man from a young age. At some stage, Sacha joined the Habonim Jewish Youth Group and in 1989, he took part in their performance of Neil Simon’s ‘Biloxi Blues’. It was at this point, at the age eighteen that he decided to take a journey that would change his life. Sacha spent a year at the Rosh Hanikra Kibbutz in Israel, taking an intimate look at how his mother’s family must have lived, and learning about himself and his faith.
Upon his return to the UK, Sacha took advantage of his education and attended Christ’s College Cambridge University. Apparently, Baron Cohen wrote acclaimed theses on Black and Jewish cultures, highlighting the difficulties that ethnic minorities face. During his time studying for his History Degree, he nurtured his taste for acting. In 1991, he played ‘Doolittle the Dustman’ in the Cambridge Footlights production of ‘My Little Fairy’; in 1992 he took the lead role in a West End production of ‘Fiddler on the Roof’; and in 1993 Sacha reportedly stole the show for singing in a performance of ‘My Fair Lady’!
After obtaining his Degree, Baron Cohen decided his passion was for satire. For two years he struggled working in restaurants and in comedy clubs until he was offered a chance from the Paramount Comedy Channel in 1996. Sacha’s job was to entertain viewers in the links between programmes. He portrayed a bleached-blond Austrian interviewer called ‘Bruno’ whose job was to pose embarrassing questions to celebrities at fashion shows throughout Europe. This continued through 1997 when he also snagged the role of Presenter for a short-lived Granada show for teenagers, called ‘F2F’.
Those few roles obviously caught someone’s attention because in 1998, Sacha began work for Channel Four’s satire of late night news, ‘The 11 o’Clock Show’. Apparently he had captured the role by sending in a tape to the producer of himself posing as an Albanian reporter asking questions to members of a fox-hunting group. ‘The Ali G Website’ reports that the Albanian character suggested to the hunters that prison overcrowding could be reduced if the prisoners were set free to be chased by hounds, and apparently the hunters agreed “Bloody good idea!”. The producers of the new show were clearly impressed and asked Sacha to come up with a new character, and Harry Thompson, the former producer, decided on the name of Ali G (“to blur the ethnic identity further”).
After filming the pilot episode of ‘The 11 o’Clock Show’, Sacha worked on the TV movie ‘Live from the Lighthouse’. The piece featured a host of celebrities and comedians including Stephen Fry, Harry Enfield, Steve Coogan (as Alan Partridge) and even Noel Gallagher. Sacha gave people a taste of things to come as he portrayed the controversial ‘Ali G.’
‘The 11 o’Clock Show’ ran its first and second series with ‘Ali G’ being the notable highlight. In fact, ratings slumped when Ali was promoted to his own series. It was Ali G’s job to be the ‘Voice of Youth’, to interview ‘important people’ on current issues. However, it was the use of risqué language and interests (such as drug use) that often left interviewees wondering what had hit them. For his fantastic work on the 11 O’Clock Show, Sacha won Best Newcomer in the 1999 British Comedy Awards.
Due to the monumental success of Sacha’s ‘Ali G’ character, the new show, entitled ‘Da Ali G Show’, came to British screens in 2000 and featured new interviews and sketches in the studio and on tour. A new character from Sacha was introduced, ‘Borat’: a TV presenter from Kazakhstan. Ali announced him to the world by saying, “…After watching the free five minutes of the Fantasy Channel, me feel relaxed enough to flick through the other foreign sattelite stations.” And this is where he claimed to have found Borat, producing his Guide to Britain. ‘Borat’ proved to be just as popular, if not moreso, as ‘Ali G’. As praise of his efforts continued on, Sacha won Personality of the Year 2000 Award from TV Quick Awards in September 2000 (he said “Thanks for this very stylish award. Sorry me can’t be there tonight but is me and my Julie’s anniversary.
It is exactly two years since I first took her up the wrongun’. To celebrate, me is takin’ her to the place where it all happened, which is the KFC in Egham High Street. Respect!”), and earlier in the year he won Best TV Entertainment Production at the Ethnic Multicultural Awards despite accusations of ‘Ali G’ as being ‘racist.’ In fact, many people have slated critics for the accusations, stating that if anything, the character mocks white people more than any racial group.
Sacha received so much acclaim for his creations that even Madonna wanted a piece of him. She contacted his agent to request an appearance of Ali G in her video for the title track of her latest album, “Music.” In it, she and Ali go toe-to-toe at turntables in cartoon form.
Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, a feature film with “Borat” at the centre, was screened at the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival and released in the United Kingdom on 2 November 2006, in the United States on 3 November 2006 and Australia 23 November 2006. The film is about a journey across the United States in an ice cream van, in which the main character is obsessed with the idea of marrying Pamela Anderson. The film is a mockumentary which includes interviews with various American citizens that poke fun at American culture, as well as sexism, racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, jingoism and Baywatch. Throughout the film, Borat occasionally speaks in presumably his native tongue of Kazakhstani; however, he is really speaking a mixture of Hebrew and Polish.
It debuted at the #1 spot in the US, taking in an estimated $26.4 million in just 837 theatres averaging $31,600 per theatre, the fourth highest per-theatre average of all time for movies opening wide (500 screens or more), behind Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest and Spider-Man.
Baron Cohen won the 2007 Golden Globe in the “Best Actor – Musical or Comedy” category, his sixth such award. Although Borat was up for “Best Motion Picture — Musical or Comedy”, the film lost to Dreamgirls. On 23 January 2007, he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. He shared his nomination with the film’s co-writers, Ant Hines, Peter Baynham, Sy Mordecai Finesto, Dan Mazer, and Todd Phillips.
Aside from the comic elements of his characters, Baron Cohen’s performances are interpreted by some as reflecting uncomfortable truths about his audience. He juxtaposes his own Jewish lineage with the anti-Semitism of his character Borat. In 2007, Baron Cohen published a travel guide as Borat, with dual titles: Borat: Touristic Guidings To Minor Nation of U.S. and A. and Borat: Touristic Guidings To Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. On 21 December 2007, Baron Cohen announced he was retiring the character of Borat.
Another alter ego Sacha Baron Cohen performed as is ‘Brüno’, a flamboyantly gay 19-year-old Austrian fashion show presenter, who often lures his subjects, unwittingly, into making provocative statements and engaging in embarrassing behaviour, as well as leading them to contradict themselves, often in the same interview. Brüno asks the subjects to answer ‘yes or no’ questions with either “Vassup” (whats up), or “Ich don’t think so” (No), or sometimes “Ach, ja!” (Ah yes!) or “Nicht, nicht” (“Nicht” means “not” in German). In one segment on Da Ali G Show he encouraged his guest to answer questions with either “Keep them in the ghetto” or “Train to Auschwitz”. Brüno’s main comedic satire pertains to the vacuity and inanity of the fashion and clubbing world. In May 2009, at the MTV Movie Awards, Baron Cohen appeared as ‘Brüno’ wearing a white angel costume, a white jock strap, white go-go boots and white wings, and did an aerial stunt where he dropped from a height (using wires) onto Eminem, Baron Cohen landed on his lap and his rear in Eminem’s face, prompting Eminem to exit the venue with fellow rappers D12 (Eminem later admitted to staging the stunt with Baron Cohen).
Baron Cohen married Australian actress Isla Fisher on 15 March 2010. After three years of study, Fisher converted to Judaism in early 2007, saying “I will definitely have a Jewish wedding just to be with Sacha. I would do anything – move into any religion – to be united in marriage with him. We have a future together, and religion comes second to love as far as we are concerned.” She has received the approval of Baron Cohen’s observant Jewish parents. Baron Cohen and Fisher have two children: daughter Olive, born on 19 October 2007 in Los Angeles, and a second child, born in the summer of 2010.Related Information: