Making 'Bruno': Strip Searches, Death Threats And Thrown Chairs

07/31/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Katy Hall Managing Features Editor, Huffington Post

Sacha Baron Cohen has always made people laugh--sometimes nervously--by pushing the envelope, and never has he pushed it as far as he did in the making of 'Bruno.' Because his guerilla filmmaking relies on the honest horror of his unwitting subjects, more than a few anti-gay feathers were ruffled, death threats were volleyed and police got involved.

The production process of 2006's 'Borat' was kept under lock and key and may forever remain a mystery, but Universal has pulled back the tapestry on 'Bruno,' revealing a rare glimpse into a fantastiche exploit. Here are some excerpts from the just-released production notes:

When Bruno showed up for Milan Fashion Week last September, Milan was ready--thanks to a cautionary press release, police prepared to arrest him on sight and the Italian fashion world determined to blackball him from the shows. This didn't stop Bruno and his team.

Seizing an opportunity 30 minutes before designer Agatha Ruiz De La Prada's fashion show began, the man who created Bruno knew what he had to do. The team secured him the proper credentials, and he walked in...not as the host of Funkyzeit Mit Bruno, but in the guise of an Italian photographer in a fabulous new outfit. The producers were euphoric when Baron Cohen (as Bruno in a Velcro suit covered with clothing) fell onto the runway. The crowd went wild in outrage while the cameras rolled. Just as the team caught the footage they needed, security shut the lights off and dragged Baron Cohen off the stage...Though he claimed that he'd made an honest mistake--he'd simply put on a Velcro suit and walked in--Baron Cohen was strip searched and questioned by seven police officers.

Who better to negotiate peace in the Middle East than a gay fashionista? After interviewing the Jordanian prime minister in his home, Bruno sauntered over to the West Bank to provoke terrorist group al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade then headed back into protected territory in a Hasidic neighborhood in Israel.

Among this conservative community, men and women are forbidden from showing much skin (including legs and arms). In retaliation for his offenses, furious members of the crowd chased Baron Cohen after Brüno took a stroll in skin-tight short shorts and a Little Debbie-inspired bonnet. They were out for blood. A large, angry crowd of Hasidic Jews began to gather, intent upon harming Baron Cohen for his actions. The performer was forced to hide in the store of a compassionate shopkeeper until a van could reach him and assist his getaway. Only then could he hunch down on the floor of the getaway vehicle and avoid the growing potential riot situation.

Later in the movie Bruno went hunting with four men in Alabama who took serious issue with his sexuality.

Once the hunters realized Bruno was gay and believed he was hitting on one of them, they readied their rifles. The production found itself in a standoff in the dark with armed men who were growing increasingly agitated by Baron Cohen's pranks. The hunters were stewing by the time the team pulled up stakes, and their reactions were soon reaching a boiling point. During one discussion, one of the men actually pulled a weapon on a crewmember and pointed it at him.

An even more aggressive display of homophobia was unleashed in Fort Smith, Arkansas, where Bruno staged a cage fight that soon turned sexual.

Seconds after the kiss, attendees became furious. Soon after, one member of the crowd unwired a chair and threw it at Baron Cohen's head. At that point, it was a near riot and the performers were rushed from the premises. Audience members and other fighters alike were screaming epithets and surrounding the bus and the field team. It ended after a stand off that lasted many hours, with 40 police officers from the Fort Smith division helping to rescue the cast and crew and quell the angry mob.

'Bruno' opens July 10.