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15 Very Nice Facts About Borat

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There was a lot of controversy and confusion surrounding the 2006 film Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. Sacha Baron Cohen played the sexist, anti-Semitic Kazakh journalist Borat Sagdiyev, who traveled throughout the United States testing the patience of unsuspecting Americans. With the movie now almost 10 years old, here are some facts about the film that you shouldn’t bring up at a rodeo.

1. SACHA BARON COHEN'S INSPIRATION FOR BORAT CAME FROM A JEWISH DOCTOR.

The actor met a doctor while vacationing in Astrakhan in southern Russia. Baron Cohen thought he was hilarious, and was similar to what Borat would become, without the racism, misogyny, or anti-Semitism. Initially, the comedic actor turned that doctor into a character named Alexi Krickler, a reporter from Moldova who had trouble understanding British culture. Cohen got his first big television gig by showing producers of the British late night satirical program The 11 O’Clock Show footage of Krickler at a pro fox-hunting rally. From there he developed his characters Ali G, Borat, and Brüno, who all appeared on Da Ali G Show. Once England became too familiar with his characters, Baron Cohen was forced to move them to America.

2. SETH ROGEN AND PATTON OSWALT WERE UNCREDITED WRITERS.

Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Peter Baynham, and Dan Mazer were the credited screenwriters, while Seth Rogen and Patton Oswalt worked on the script in an uncredited capacity. Originally in 20th Century Fox’s official production notes, it was claimed that the movie wasn’t scripted at all. Baron Cohen later said 80 percent of Borat featured scenes they “set out to accomplish.” The writers took the time to guess the different ways the real people in the film would respond to Borat’s questions; some reactions changed the story. A 60-page outline was written without the studio’s knowledge; they were only given a five-page outline. The writers were nominated for an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.

3. A FAKE FILM COMPANY WAS SET UP TO MISLEAD THE PEOPLE IN THE MOVIE.

A representative from “One America Productions” contacted people to say a foreign correspondent was making a film about American life. One America even had its own website. On the day of the interviews, a release form would suddenly be produced, as well as financial compensation. Whenever a person or group like the Veteran Feminists of America would kick Borat out, one of the producers would politely ask them to give him another chance because he was from a third-world country and did not know any better.

4. NOT INCLUDING ITS STAR, THERE WERE JUST FOUR ACTORS.

Ken Davitian got the part of Azamat by deceiving Baron Cohen and director Larry Charles in his audition, where he pretended to be an immigrant who didn’t speak English. Luenell Campbell is a comedian and actress who had appeared in So I Married an Axe Murderer and The Rock. Borat’s son was played by Adrian Cortez, a.k.a. Stonie, a 25-year-old gay porn star. The fourth actor, Pamela Anderson, was also in on the joke.

5. BARON COHEN WAS ALMOST KILLED FOR HIS RODEO APPEARANCE.

Once Baron Cohen angered the crowd at Virginia's Salem Civic Center, he and his crew got out of there. Quickly. An attendee said she thought he would have been shot if he stayed just one minute longer. The rodeo’s producer confirmed the crowd was very angry, and was quoted as saying there would have been a riot, and that the crew would have gotten killed had they not left when they did. The producer allowed Borat to perform in the first place because he was also fooled by the fake production company and journalist story, and because he had not listened to the demo CD he asked them for to hear Borat’s voice in order to sing the national anthem ... which was blank.

6. THE ORIGINAL DIRECTOR WAS TODD PHILLIPS, WHO QUIT AFTER THE RODEO INCIDENT.

Todd Phillips, director of Old School and The Hangover, received death threats, which scared him off the project. Officially though, Phillips left due to “creative differences.”

7. THE KAZAKHSTAN SCENES WERE SHOT IN GLOD, ROMANIA.

The village's 1000 residents were told they were being filmed for a documentary about their hardships. Once the townspeople, such as the one-armed man who was told the rubber sex toy he was given was a prosthetic, discovered the truth, they filed a lawsuit.

8. THE REAL KAZAKHSTAN WAS ALSO UPSET.

The Foreign Ministry of Kazakhstan placed a four-page insert in The New York Times speaking of its positive attributes to combat the perceived negative publicity the Borat character was giving their country. When the president of Kazakhstan visited the White House a little over one month before Borat was released in theaters, Baron Cohen—in character as Borat—held a press conference in front of the Kazakh embassy refuting The New York Times insert and claiming the president was in the U.S. to promote Borat.

9. BARON COHEN GOT INTO CHARACTER AS SOON AS HE LEFT HIS HOTEL, AND DIDN’T STOP UNTIL AFTER THE CREW WRAPPED FOR THE DAY.

He even stayed in character as Borat when he was being questioned by the Secret Service.

10. IN NEW YORK, A WARRANT WAS ISSUED FOR BARON COHEN’S ARREST.

He was advised to leave the state after attempting to secure a hotel room with his underwear over his pants. Two crew members were arrested for taking a phone, an alarm clock, and a comforter from a hotel (intending to return them later) and spent a night in a New York jail. A lawyer was kept on retainer throughout filming.

11. THE BED AND BREAKFAST WAS ACTUALLY IN NEWTON, MASSACHUSETTS.

The producers asked Mariam and Joseph Behar to bring food to Borat’s room, even though the B&B didn’t provide that service. The Behars later called Baron Cohen’s performance “genius.”

12. THE MISSISSIPPI NEWS PRODUCER WHO ACCIDENTALLY BOOKED BORAT WAS FIRED.

WAPT-TV let Dharma Arthur go early from her contract as a result of the incident. Arthur wrote a letter to Newsweek saying it took her three months to find a new job and that she was in debt. She said Baron Cohen being hailed as a comedic genius was “upsetting” to her.

13. THE HUMOR TEACHER FIGURED OUT IT WAS ALL A GAG HALFWAY THROUGH THEIR SESSION.

Pat Haggerty continued his lesson anyway, because he had been compensated beforehand, and figured it could help his career.

14. TWO OF THE FRAT KIDS SUED.

The third University of South Carolina Chi Psi brother, David Corcoran, said the producers paid for himself and his two frat brothers to drink at a bar before having them pick Borat up in an RV. The two college students who sued claimed they were told the movie wouldn’t appear in the United States and that they suffered from “humiliation, mental anguish, and emotional and physical distress, loss of reputation, goodwill and standing in the community.” One of the two unidentified students left the university. The lawsuit was thrown out.

15. THE "KAZAKH" LANGUAGE SPOKEN BY BORAT WAS A MIXTURE OF HEBREW AND ISRAELI SLANG.

Because of this, the movie was a huge hit in Israel. Baron Cohen told NPR he is proud of his Jewish identity, but doesn’t call himself religious.

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The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Turkey Day Marathon Is Back
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Shout! Factory

For many fans, Mystery Science Theater 3000 is as beloved a Thanksgiving tradition as mashed potatoes and gravy (except funnier). It seems appropriate, given that the show celebrates the turkeys of the movie world. And that it made its debut on Thanksgiving Day in 1988 (on KTMA, a local station in Minneapolis). In 1991, to celebrate its third anniversary, Comedy Central hosted a Thanksgiving Day marathon of the series—and in the more than 25 years since, that tradition has continued.

Beginning at 12 p.m. ET on Thursday, Shout! Factory will host yet another Mystery Science Theater 3000 Turkey Day marathon, hosted by series creator Joel Hodgson and stars Jonah Ray and Felicia Day. Taking place online at ShoutFactoryTV.com, or via the Shout! Factory TV app on Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire and select smart TVs, the trio will share six classic MST3K episodes that have never been screened as part of a Shout! Factory Turkey Day Marathon. Here’s hoping your favorite episode makes it (cough, Hobgoblins, cough.)

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11 Bite-Sized Facts About Cannibal! The Musical
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Back in their film school days, the creators of South Park made a twisted tribute to Rogers and Hammerstein. Cannibal! The Musical is (very) loosely based on the life of Alfred "Alferd" Packer, an American prospector who resorted to eating his travel companions in the harsh winter of 1874. Below, you’ll find a buffet of bite-sized facts about this weirdly upbeat black comedy. Bon appétit!

1. IT ALL STARTED WITH A GAG TRAILER.

In 1992, Trey Parker was studying film at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where pretty much everyone knows all about the legend of Alfred "Alferd" Packer. Indeed, when a new restaurant opened up on campus in 1968, the student body chose to name it after this famous man-eater. The restaurant’s slogan? “Have a friend for lunch.” As a joke, Parker rounded up some of his fellow film majors and spent three days shooting a phony trailer for a nonexistent movie called Alferd Packer: The Musical. Included in the ensemble was Matt Stone, with whom Parker would go on to create South Park.

Once the Alferd Packer promo was finished, those who worked on it weren’t sure if they could turn this concept into a feature-length picture. Fortunately, the trailer was a huge hit. “People thought it was really funny,” Parker told The Denver Post, “so we went around … and said, ‘So do you want to invest?’” Thanks (for the most part) to donations from a few CU grads with wealthy parents, Parker and his co-stars amassed a $100,000 budget.

2. LIANE THE HORSE WAS NAMED AFTER TREY PARKER’S EX-FIANCÉE.

At age 21, Parker was all set to marry his high school sweetheart. “We had plane tickets, the dress was bought, the church was paid for,” Parker shared on the DVD commentary. Then, about a month before the wedding, he caught his bride-to-be with another man. Devastated, Parker broke off the engagement and came up with an unusual way to get even. “I really wrote this movie for her,” he said.

A major character in Cannibal is Liane, Packer’s beloved horse, who leaves him for another rider. The two-timing equine was named after Parker’s former fiancée. Some artistic license was taken here, as there’s no proof that the real Packer ever owned a horse named Liane—or that he ever wistfully sang about being on top of her.

3. AN AVANT-GARDE LEGEND WAS CAST IN A MINOR ROLE.

World-renowned for his experimental filmmaking, the late Stan Brakhage taught off and on at the University of Colorado, where he met Parker and Stone. The two convinced him to appear in Cannibal! as George Noon’s father, who gets about two minutes’ worth of screen time.

4. PARKER’S DAD WAS IN IT, TOO.

Just like Stan Marsh’s dad in South Park, Trey Parker’s father, Randy, is a geologist. In Cannibal! The Musical, he portrays the Breckenridge judge who sentences Packer (played by Trey) to death.

5. “SHPADOINKLE” WAS MEANT AS A FILLER WORD.

In addition to penning the Cannibal! script, Parker also wrote the film’s musical numbers. The first of these is “Shpadoinkle Day,” an offbeat tribute to “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” from Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! Parker knew that the first verse had to include a positive, three-syllable word, but couldn’t think of any that fit. So he used the made-up term “Shpadoinkle” to plug the gap until he could come up with an alternative. However, the creative team liked “shpadoinkle” so much that it stayed put and became one of Cannibal’s running jokes.

6. THEY SHOT IN THE COURTROOM IN WHICH PACKER WAS ACTUALLY TRIED.

On April 6, 1883, Packer was put on trial at the Hinsdale County Courthouse in Lake City, Colorado. Over the next few days, he admitted to dining on two of his dead travel companions—one of whom he supposedly killed in self-defense (the other died of natural causes). Packer was found guilty of murder, but avoided the hangman’s noose by fighting for a second trial, which took place 30 miles away in Gunnison. This time, he was charged with five counts of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to 40 years in prison. However, while Packer languished behind bars, public opinion slowly turned in the cannibal’s favor. Under near-constant pressure from The Denver Post, Governor Charles S. Thomas pardoned Packer in 1901.

More than 90 years later, Parker filmed the trial scenes of Cannibal! The Musical at the still-standing Hinsdale County Courthouse. About halfway through the movie, the judge delivers a big speech in which he sentences Packer to death. His on-screen monologue was copied word-for-word from the court transcript of that 1883 Lake City trial.

7. AS THE MINERS SING “THAT’S ALL I’M ASKING FOR,” YOU CAN SEE PARKER MOUTH THE WORD “CUT.”

It goes by fast, but you can see Parker call "cut" to end the shot at the 3:06 mark in the clip above.

8. PARKER USED A PSEUDONYM FOR THE OPENING CREDITS.

Parker billed himself as "Juan Schwartz" in the cast of Cannibal because, according to the movie's website, "Trey doesn't like seeing one person's name plastered all over a movie's credits." Since he is properly credited as writer and director, he likely felt the additional acting credit was a bit too much. Incidentally, Packer called himself “John Shwartze” while evading the law before his arrest.

9. A FEW SONGS WERE DELETED.

The original cut of Cannibal! The Musical ran for two and a half hours, but thanks to some major-league editing, the runtime was reduced to a breezy 93 minutes. “There were fights about that from the get-go, but I give credit to Trey for being the toughest critic,” producer Jason McHugh told MovieMaker Magazine. “He had the maturity to know that a musical comedy about cannibals can’t be two and a half hours long.”

In the streamlining process, two musical numbers got the axe. The first was a quick little dirge called “Don’t Be Stupid,” wherein some nameless miners tell Packer’s group to postpone their journey until springtime. The other was “I’m Shatterproof,” a rap/funk song that Packer, hardened by his recent ordeals, delivers during a bar fight. Also deleted was a reprise of “When I Was On Top of You.”

10. COMEDY CENTRAL WOULDN’T BROADCAST IT.

Cannibal! was distributed by Troma Entertainment, an independent production company best known for creating The Toxic Avenger series. When South Park began to emerge as a major player on cable TV, Troma’s co-founder, Lloyd Kaufman, assumed that Comedy Central would jump at the chance to air some of Parker and Stone’s earlier work. Instead, the channel flatly refused to air Cannibal.

Kaufman was sent a rejection letter from Comedy Central, which read: “Thank you for submitting and re-submitting Cannibal! The Musical, but it is simply not up to our standards for broadcasting.” Troma forwarded a copy of this dispatch to Parker. Today, it’s prominently displayed in his office—at Comedy Central!

11. IT HAS BEEN TURNED INTO A STAGE MUSICAL ON MANY OCCASIONS.

Can’t get tickets to The Book of Mormon? Perhaps you can catch a live reenactment of Cannibal! The Musical instead. Since 1998, the movie has been seen more than 60 stage adaptations. There’s no “official” version of the theatrical show. As such, acting troupes that might be interested in performing Cannibal! have to write their own scripts based on the original movie. 

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