Ali G. Borat. Bruno. The Dictator. Sacha Baron Cohen has forged a career out of playing willfully ignorant antiheroes who encourage audiences to laugh at some of modern society's most maddening realities. In his latest, The Brothers Grimsby, the British comedian puts his ass on the line (often literally), offering his most outrageous gross-out gags yet, and targeting polarizing presidential candidate Donald Trump.
The Brothers Grimsby has Baron Cohen starring as a dopey but affable soccer hooligan whose quest to find his long lost brother (Mark Strong as an MI6 assassin) throws him flip flops over muttonchops into a dangerous world of espionage, intrigue and unusual honeypots.
Screen Rant sat down with Baron Cohen in New York for a spoiler-free discussion The Brothers Grimsby's most bonkers gags and where he thinks the line should be drawn between political correctness and comedy.
Screen Rant: I come from the part of Pennsylvania where they have the Yinzer accent. If you ever want to hear a ridiculous accent, look that up.
Sacha Baron Cohen: Very quick, let’s go.
Screen Rant: Oh, me? OK. [in accent]: “We’re gonna go see the Stillers in that.”
Sacha Baron Cohen: It’s almost southern, yeah?
Screen Rant: It’s its own chestnut to track.
Sacha Baron Cohen: That mountain range is there, isn’t it?
Screen Rant: Appalachia, yeah.
Sacha Baron Cohen: OK. So I’ve been there. Wait a minute, yeah. I’ve been around the Appalachians. What city was I in? Give me some cities around there.
Screen Rant: Umm…
Sacha Baron Cohen: I definitely shot some stuff in Borat.
Screen Rant: I feel like so…
Sacha Baron Cohen: Yeah. I was definitely in the Appalachians.
Screen Rant: There’s an interesting vibe. It’s a little bit like stepping back in time a little.
Sacha Baron Cohen: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Screen Rant: With the internet it’s gotten a little worse.
Sacha Baron Cohen: I’ll remember where it was. It was…it’s not the most fun place I’ve been.
Screen Rant: It can be tricky.
Screen Rant: I can kind of relate to a lot of the small-town things because there’s a very specific culture…
Sacha Baron Cohen: Yes. I think in all small towns, all kind of working class communities around the world. They are kind of similar.
Screen Rant: I feel like my people back home would be like…
Sacha Baron Cohen: Yeah. “We don’t appear in our underpants!”
Screen Rant: In this movie there is a scene I got to talk with Mark about involving an elephant. I’m not going to get into the spoilers of it, but I am curious. I asked him what made up the mess you guys rolled around in for what he said was three days.
Sacha Baron Cohen: Yes, three days.
Screen Rant: He said he didn’t ask. Did you ask?
Sacha Baron Cohen: Well, yeah. I’m the producer of the movie, so they were showing me samples. In the end, it was actually…the fluid that approximated what we needed the most was actually made from McDonald’s sauce. So we brought in about 14 tons of it.
Screen Rant: He thought it was skin products.
Sacha Baron Cohen: Is that what they told him?
Screen Rant: He said he was told that it was a benign skin treatment.
Sacha Baron Cohen: Well, I gotta say something. There’s something called bullshitting actors. And somebody did that to him. “Yeah, listen. We want to cover you in 15 tons of McDonald’s sauce…”
Screen Rant: He said he skin felt fantastic afterwards. He said it was really hard to get off…
Sacha Baron Cohen: There we go. You should head to McDonald’s and get covered in the sauce there.
Screen Rant: Oh, man! There’s a moment in the movie that me think that…Was Daniel Radcliffe contacted to be in this movie?
Sacha Baron Cohen: No, no. His lawyer has contacted us.
Screen Rant: What did his lawyer have to say?
Sacha Baron Cohen: I don’t think legally I’m allowed to mention it. But, thank you. We did receive that writ. We appreciate it.
Screen Rant: Have you ever met Daniel Radcliffe?
Sacha Baron Cohen: No, no.
Screen Rant: Are you looking forward to that opportunity?
Sacha Baron Cohen: Yeah. Well, he’s got to get the shit out of my set…
Screen Rant: [laughs] I have a question. I know you are a big Monty Python fan.
Sacha Baron Cohen: Yes, yeah.
Screen Rant: John Cleese has recently talked about political correctness being kind of a problem for comedy. What are your thoughts on that concept?
Sacha Baron Cohen: Well, I think you can be politically incorrect, but there’s some responsibility with that. You’ve got to make sure that you are not condoning or bolstering any racial or other stereotypes. You’ve got to be free to make jokes, but just make sure…you don’t want to go and black face somewhere to just prove a point. If it’s insulting and offensive just for the sake of it that’s problematic.
I mean on the other side of the spectrum, you see someone like Donald Trump, who is using as the basis of his campaign political incorrectness. It’s clearly intentional. He’d have to be a complete moron just to coincidentally insult Mexicans, and women, and disabled people, and Muslims. So clearly he’s using it as a vote winner. But I think with comedians there’s a responsibility.
Screen Rant: For you, where do you draw the line on what you can joke about and what you can’t? Where do you personally make that determination?
Sacha Baron Cohen: There’s a joke in the movie…it’s got a fairytale ending, and this is a spoiler: Donald Trump does contract HIV. I think people are upset about that, mainly because they feel the reputation of AIDS has been destroyed by associating it with Donald Trump.
No, but the weird thing about, for example, that scene is I’ve just been around the world, literally around Europe, and every time…and Australia. Every time we show that scene, people get up and cheer.
Screen Rant: It happened here in New York!
Sacha Baron Cohen: Yeah. It’s great for me. But the worrying thing is there’s so much latent hatred of the guy and this guy isn’t even president yet.
Screen Rant: Please don’t say yet.
Sacha Baron Cohen: [laughs]
Screen Rant: I live here.
Sacha Baron Cohen: Listen. It’s a possibility, unfortunately. I don’t know. Don’t listen to me. I’m not a politician. I know nothing about politics. But people are cheering when something very bad happens to him. So that’s got to make you think before voting for him.
The Brothers Grimsby is now playing in theaters.