The actress from the new movie “Borat 2” has shared her side of the story regarding the now-infamous scene that features former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani supposedly behaving inappropriately with a young woman in a hotel room.
In an interview with the New York Times, 24-year-old actress Maria Bakalova claimed that her “heart was racing” while filming the scene and she implied that Giuliani had done something wrong, but she refused to accuse the mayor of doing anything improper.
That’s because it seems obvious that he didn’t. And good for the skeptical New York Times reporter who repeatedly tried to get the actress to give a clear, unambiguous answer about what happened, rather than letting her get away with character assassination through innuendo after many other media outlets already let comedian Sacha Baron Cohen (the Borat title character) tar Giuliani that way.
As a refresher: there’s a heavily-edited scene in the new “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” (sequel to the 2006 mocumentary “Borat”) that makes it look like Giuliani was behaving inappropriately with a 24-year-old actress, who he believed was an adult reporter. In the movie, the character is only 15.
In the movie, Giuliani, 76, is seen laying back on a hotel bed, tucking his shirt in. Giuliani said that he had leaned back to tuck in his shirt after the actress pulled it out while removing his microphone at the conclusion of the interview.
Baron-Cohen has strongly implied that Giuliani did something wrong, but he hasn’t made a specific accusation (which could expose the comedian to liability if untrue). Bakalova, likewise, vaguely implied Giuliani did something wrong, but she pointedly refused to say that anything improper happened.
There are plenty of reasons to believe she is still play-acting.
Consider this: the New York Times asked Bakalova if she ever felt physically in danger while filming. Bakalova answered, “Maybe the scene when we were at the hotel and Rudy Giuliani called the police, I was kind of scared that something would happen. But fortunately, we escaped.”
“Escaped”? That’s a curious choice of words. The 24-year-old said that she “escaped” from an elderly, overweight man, while she was taking part in a set-up that she helped arrange, while her film crew and a security team were hiding nearby (according to Bakalova), after her male co-star burst into the room dressed in lingerie. If anyone should feel unsafe in that situation, it is Giuliani, who clearly did – he called the police to report the incident.
The NYT reporter pressed Bakalova multiple times for her impression of what was happening in that scene, and she avoided giving a direct answer:
NYT Reporter: Giuliani has said that he was never inappropriate to you and that he was tucking in his shirt, but other viewers believe he was doing something illicit. What happened in that scene?
Bakalova: [Laughs] I saw everything that you saw. If you saw the movie, that’s our message. We want everybody to see the movie and judge for themselves.
NYT Reporter: But did you come to a conclusion yourself as to what he was doing?
Bakalova: I believe it’s my back [to the camera] there, we can see what he’s doing in the mirror.
NYT Reporter: What do you think was taking place? You’re the only other person who was in the room. Did you have any other indication as to what he was doing
Bakalova: [Long pause] What do you think he was doing?
NYT Reporter: I can see how either interpretation could be correct. But I wasn’t there, and you were. Do you have an opinion either way?
Bakalova: Sacha jumped into the room quickly, because he’s been worried about me. So, if he were late, I don’t know how things were going to go. But he came just in time.
(The full interview is available from The New York Times.)
The NYT reporter also pointed out that Giuliani has been mocked for being duped by the “Borat” filmmakers, and asked Bakalova if she felt bad. Bakalova replied that, “Movies like this are showing people’s true colors… it’s going to show Rudy’s real character. You’re responsible for your own decisions. So, no, I don’t feel bad.”
That really depends on how the footage is edited though, doesn’t it? If you deceptively edit a video to make it look something inappropriate was happening, when it wasn’t, then yes… you should feel bad.
Baron-Cohen has not released the raw, unedited footage, which could clarify what actually occurred, but this YouTube video provides an excellent breakdown of the scene. It shows how the video was deceptively edited to make the interaction look far worse than it was:
If this analysis is wrong and something untoward happened, show us the full unedited video.
Bakalova’s unwillingness to say anything accusatory, along with the other evidence and common sense, makes it clear that Giuliani was set up and made to look foolish. And while he was dumb to allow himself to be in that kind of potentially compromising situation in the first place, there’s no reason to take Borat’s interpretation at face value. The movie is a comedy – not a documentary.
Media outlets reporting about that scene should take Bakalova’s repeated non-answers as an answer: nothing untoward happened.
It’s also worth noting that Bakalova said in an Oct. 23 interview that she never felt in danger while filming the movie, contradicting the answer she later gave to the New York Times.
Ironically, when she first got the role, the 24-year-old Bulgarian actress was concerned that the project might not have been legitimate. “I was sure it was going to be a human trafficking situation,” she said.
Sacha Baron-Cohen, why did she have the impression that she was going to be a victim of human sex trafficking because of working with you? Don’t try to deny it – she said what she said.