(JTA) — Sacha Baron Cohen says his days of dressing up as characters such as Borat Sagdiyev, the anti-Semitic Kazakh journalist that made the Jewish actor a star, are behind him.
He said he has been sued and nearly arrested over the course of filming his movies and shows, most of which involve a disguised Cohen tricking the people around him into saying or doing absurd things.
“At some point, your luck runs out. And so I never wanted to do this stuff again,” he told NPR’s Terry Gross on Monday.
While filming the sequel to the massively popular 2006 “Borat” film last year, he said he feared for his life when told that he should wear a bulletproof vest to a gun rally because there was a chance he could get shot.
“I was very aware that once the crowd realized that I was a fake, that it could turn really ugly and it could be really dangerous,” he added.
In one lawsuit involving “Borat 2,” the daughter of a Holocaust survivor who was featured in the film but who died before it debuted sued Cohen, claimed that her mother was “horrified” that he tricked her into appearing in a comedy. In the movie, the survivor, Judith Dim Evans, tells part of her Holocaust story and helps point out Borat’s misplaced anti-Semitism.
Another prominent lawsuit Cohen faced in 2020 came from Roy Moore, the disgraced former candidate for Senate in Alabama who appeared in Cohen’s Showtime series “Who is America?” Cohen, disguised as an Israeli terrorism expert, demonstrates what he calls a pedophile-detecting device that beeps when it comes near Moore — who was accused of sexually harassing or assaulting multiple women.
Long afraid to show his face much in public, Cohen has made more regular media appearances in recent years. In 2019, he spoke at an Anti-Defamation League conference and called social media “the greatest propaganda machine in history.” He has since singled out Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg as an enabler of Holocaust denial and other forms of anti-Semitism online in multiple interviews.
Read about how Cohen turned anti-Semitism into humor in the “Borat” sequel here.