Sacha Baron Cohen: Giuliani refused COVID test for ‘Borat’

Looking for another reason to cringe over that infamous Rudy Giuliani scene in last year’s “Borat” sequel? Look no more.

In a new Variety profile, Sacha Baron Cohen said the former New York mayor and personal attorney for President Trump refused to take a rapid-result coronavirus test when he arrived to be interviewed for Baron Cohen’s hit film. Giuliani’s decision forced the filmmaker to weigh whether it was worth exposing his crew to get the scene.

“There was this debate of what do we do?” Baron Cohen told Variety. “Do we go ahead with this scene? What happens if he has coronavirus?”

When “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” was released on Amazon Prime Video in October, Giuliani’s behavior with actress Maria Bakalova, who played a fictitious 15-year-old aspiring journalist named Tutar, caused an international stir.

In the controversial scene, Giuliani, 76, follows Bakalova’s character to the suite’s bedroom for a post-interview drink. After helping each other remove their microphones, he sits on the edge of the bed, asks for her phone number and address, and then proceeds to lie back and put his hand in his pants.

Giuliani responded to the appearance of impropriety on Twitter, calling the scene a “complete fabrication” and insisting that he was tucking in his shirt after taking off recording equipment.

“I knew that if something happened, I could make my exit,” Bakalova told The Times in a recent interview. “But to be honest, my heart was definitely racing because it was an intense situation. The movie has been out for a few months, and everyone can see it and decide for themselves what to accept and believe.”

Behind the scenes, Baron Cohen and his crew wrestled with the fact that the production’s safety protocols had been violated — a concern likely heightened when Giuliani coughed harshly while extolling President Trump’s handling of the pandemic.

Baron Cohen, who raced to release the movie before the 2020 presidential election, also said that he and several crew members shared a set with two actors who tested positive for COVID-19. Those who were exposed were flown on a chartered plane to Los Angeles, but none of them fell ill.
To stay on the safe side, the rest of Baron Cohen’s scenes in Romania were shot using a body double.

The British actor, who also starred in last year’s “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” was later digitally inserted into the footage with green-screen technology.

Giuliani has not publicly responded to Baron Cohen’s claim about the COVID test.