December 21, 2007 / 10:56 PM / 10 years ago

Sacha Baron Cohen to shed Borat persona for good

LONDON (Reuters) - British actor-comedian Sacha Baron Cohen says the time has come to shed forever his persona as Borat, the boorish, oversexed, TV journalist from Kazakhstan who became a surprise box office sensation last year.

In a rare interview as himself, Cohen told Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper he found it painful to abandon his Borat character, and another of his oddball alter egos, Ali G, but felt both had become too familiar to the public.

Cohen created both personae as devices for improvised social satire, in which people he interacted with in interviews or casual encounters became his unsuspecting comic foils.

His act was most famously showcased in last year’s movie phenomenon “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan,” a faux documentary of the Central Asian reporter on a cross-country U.S. road trip.

“When I was being Ali G and Borat, I was in character sometimes 14 hours a day and I came to love them. So admitting I am never going to play them again is quite a sad thing,” he told the newspaper.

“It is like saying goodbye to a loved one. It is hard, and the problem with success, although it’s fantastic, is that every new person who sees the Borat movie is one less person I ‘get’ with Borat again, so it’s a kind of self-defeating form, really.”

The Borat film was a box office smash that turned Cohen’s cluelessly offensive Central Asian character -- complete with thick moustache, wild-eyed grin and boisterous catch phrases like “Very nice!” and “Sexytime!” -- into a household name.

The film benefited in part from publicity sparked by Kazakh officials protesting the unflattering portrait of their country as a backward nation of misogynists and anti-Semites.

Speaking from a hotel in Los Angeles where he now lives with his Australian actress girlfriend Isla Fisher and new-born daughter Olive, Cohen said he was sorry to leave Borat behind.

“But the success has been great and better than anything I could have dreamed of,” said Cohen, who is currently starring with Johnny Depp in the musical “Sweeney Todd,” playing Pirelli, a rival singing barber who meets a bloody end at Todd’s hands.

Since creating Ali G and Borat, Cohan has rarely given interviews out of character. He said it was much easier for him like that -- and more entertaining.

“I think it can get a little (bit) tiresome if you’re having to be the real person and talking about how important and interesting the role was,” he said.

Cohen is now finishing work on his next project in which he plays Bruno, a gay, Austrian fashion reporter who also was introduced on his TV program “Da Ali G Show.”

Reporting by Belinda Goldsmith, editing by Alan Elsner

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