FUNNY BUSI­NESS

SACHA BARON CO­HEN RE­TURNS FOR GRIMSBY

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - FRONT PAGE - MICHELE MANELIS Grimsby opens to­day

Sacha Baron Co­hen is known for his many out­ra­geous al­ter-egos – Ali G, Bo­rat, Bruno, and The Dic­ta­tor, for starters – and I’ve met most of them over the years.

To­day, how­ever, is the first time I’ve shaken hands with Baron Co­hen.

The Bri­tish co­me­dian rarely ap­pears as him­self, and is so un­pre­dictable that even his pub­li­cist couldn’t guar­an­tee whether he would ar­rive in char­ac­ter or not.

Hap­pily, he is him­self, dressed in a grey de­signer suit.

“Oh, this is just how I wake up,” he an­nounces, straight­faced. “Ac­tu­ally, I have a three­piece py­jama as well.”

Baron Co­hen is in Los An­ge­les to pro­mote the up­com­ing film, Grimsby, named af­ter the English sea­side town that sets the stage for this in­ter­na­tional James Bond-es­que com­edy.

He stars as Carl “Nobby” Butcher, an un­em­ployed father-of-nine, who is search­ing for his brother Se­bas­tian (Mark Strong), an MI6 agent, from whom he has been es­tranged for 28 years.

For all the shock­ing sce­nar­ios in the film, Baron Co­hen ul­ti­mately de­liv­ers a sweet mes­sage about the im­por­tance of fam­ily.

‘‘Nobby’’ is a like­able, avid soc­cer fan with a pen­chant for drink­ing.

Baron Co­hen says, “Ac­tu­ally, one of the re­views in Eng­land de­scribed it as ‘a fam­ily movie, al­beit, a very strange one’.’’

Baron Co­hen has been mar­ried for nearly six years to Isla Fisher, with whom he is rais­ing their chil­dren, daugh­ters Olive, 8, and Elula, 5, and son, Mont­gomery, 1, in Lon­don.

Raised in a Jewish fam­ily in Ham­mer­smith, Lon­don, he is the youngest of three brothers.

His Is­raeli-born mother worked as a fit­ness in­struc­tor and his father owned a cloth­ing store.

Baron Co­hen’s rise to fame in­cluded a stint as a fash­ion model be­fore en­ter­ing the world of stand-up com­edy.

He took clown train­ing in Paris, landed some tele­vi­sion com­mer­cials and made his film de­but in The Jolly Boys Last

Stand in the 1990s. Even­tu­ally, in 1998, he landed a part in The 11 O’Clock

Show, where he pre­sented his char­ac­ter, Ali G, a wannabe white rap­per.

The char­ac­ter be­came so pop­u­lar that he par­layed him into Da Ali G Show, in which he did “se­ri­ous” in­ter­views with politi­cians and celebri­ties.

In De­cem­ber, Baron Co­hen do­nated $US500,000 to a Save the Chil­dren pro­gram tasked with vac­ci­nat­ing Syr­ian chil­dren against measles, and do­nated an equal sum to the In­ter­na­tional Res­cue Com­mit­tee to help Syr­ian refugees.

“We give a con­tri­bu­tion ev­ery year to a dif­fer­ent char­ity and this year we felt that the sit­u­a­tion was so dire in Syria that they asked whether they could make our do­na­tion pub­lic,” he says.

‘‘The in­ac­tion of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity over a num­ber of years has led to this refugee prob­lem that is vast and is go­ing to com­pletely change the na­ture of Europe.

‘‘So it was just some­thing we had to do as par­ents.

“We saw chil­dren suf­fer­ing and we felt we had to do it.”

Baron Co­hen isn’t obliv­i­ous to political and so­ci­etal is­sues. “When I did press for The

Dic­ta­tor (2012), I made a com­ment about Syria.”

Baron Co­hen has al­ways taken the op­por­tu­nity to trash stereo­types, be it the gay com­mu­nity in Bruno, or racially, in Ali G and Bo­rat.

In Grimsby, fea­tur­ing Rebel Wil­son and Gabourey Sidibe, he’s break­ing down an­other prej­u­dice in Hol­ly­wood.

“As for the fuller-fig­ured women in the movie, the idea was to chal­lenge that old sex­ist as­sump­tion of Bond movies where James Bond is never go­ing to sleep with a woman who is a plus size.”

The age-old ques­tion – how far is too far? – is some­thing Baron Co­hen says he con­sid­ers when ex­plor­ing the pa­ram­e­ters of of­fend­ing his au­di­ence.

“It’s one that I dis­cuss with my co-writer (Peter Bayn­ham) all the time: ‘Can we do this joke? Is it moral, is it eth­i­cal, is it too far?’ It’s not just a slap­dash at­tack. Char­lie Hebdo are al­ways play­ing with that line, and for ex­am­ple, is it too early to make jokes about the at­tacks? Is it ever re­spon­si­ble to make jokes about the at­tacks? Th­ese are real is­sues that I think any co­me­dian who is writ­ing stuff that is near the edge has to deal with, oth­er­wise they are ir­re­spon­si­ble.”

Bri­tish co­me­dian Sacha Baron Co­hen plays un­em­ployed father of nine Carl ‘‘Nobby’’ Butcher in his new film Grimsby.

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