[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Friday, 23 February 2007, 08:46 GMT
Borat creator has the final word
By Victoria Lindrea
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

Oscar-nominated screenwriter Dan Mazer admits that making the shortlist for this year's Academy Awards was "utterly unexpected".

Dan Mazer
Mazer and Baron Cohen have been friends since the age of 11

"The Oscar was something we joked about: 'We'll get a man to bring a bag of poo down to dinner, that will get an Oscar nomination,'" says Mazer, referring to a scene in the hit comedy.

"It's just not something you think about when you are sitting in a room writing jokes," says Mazer, who wrote the film with childhood friend and star Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines and Peter Baynham.

"But whilst it's about bags of poo and fat men's testicles, there is also deep satire," says the 35-year-old writer, whose previous work includes Ali G In Da House.

"It was always really important that the film had a point, a political message. And I think that is what has endeared us to the Academy, hopefully"

"I think it's incredibly brave and forward-thinking of them. It's an amazing honour," he adds.


Alongside Baron Cohen and Hines, Mazer has been living with and developing the character of Kazakh reporter Borat for nearly nine years.

Plans for a film began in late 2004, off the back of a successful TV series.

The film went on to top the US box office last autumn, but many were surprised when the film landed an Oscar nomination for adapted screenplay.

Sacha Baron Cohen as Borat
The film met mixed reactions in Kazakhstan, the home of Borat

The film, which sees Baron Cohen as the guileless Kazakh reporter startling unwitting Americans with his misogyny, anti-semitism and general crudeness, appears to be almost entirely improvised.

In fact, Mazer told the BBC News website it was "95% scripted".

"Perversely, even though it's not tightly scripted, we ended up writing much more than you would do in an ordinary script - because we had to prepare ourselves for every eventuality."

"Say we are going to interview a group of feminists, and we have 20 questions. We sort of know how people are going to respond, so we prepare the answers as well."

"No exaggeration - sometimes we would go into a scene with up to 250 jokes."

"I liken the script to a flow chart: if Borat says A, then the woman will say either B,C or D," he explains.

"It's a very boring scientific way of talking about comedy," he adds.


With the script entirely dependant on individual reactions, the writing team accompanied Baron Cohen throughout filming.

"We decided after the Ali G film, that if we did a Borat film we wanted it to be real and more in the style of the show."

So did Mazer ever feel embarrassed by the film's antics?

"I'm so inured to the embarrassment now. It's a bit like people who work for Rentokil, I guess they probably don't really notice rats anymore."

All manner of prejudices were revealed in the course of the film

"We were very careful about who we chose to interview.

"We hold a mirror up, that's my big philosophy. People like the driving instructor come across incredibly well, because that's what he's like and that's how he chose to deal with Borat."

"We never edit things to make people look different to how they are, and how they react."

Congratulations have poured in from fellow screenwriters, and two potential sequels remain in the pipeline - about which Mazer is keeping mum.

"From the very beginning we were very pleased with how it turned out. But whether people find it funny or not is out of your control.

"Often funny things either miss the mark, or are only appreciated long after they have gone - like Spinal Tap."

"I sort of expected that might happen, but never $250m worldwide. That's just insane."

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
I think the relief to shave off that moustache must have been orgasmic
Dan Mazer on Baron Cohen's performance

The crowning glory was Sacha Baron Cohen's Golden Globe award for best actor in a comedy - but the Academy failed to follow suit with an Oscar nomination.

"I personally think he deserved it, because when one talks about the lineage of method actors this is a performance that's up there with the best," says Mazer, citing Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman.

"Sacha lived in the real world as a boorish Kazakh for four months. He convinced real people that he is so far from who he actually is - an urbane, educated, middle class Englishman - that I think it is a phenomenal performance."

So can the writer convince Hollywood that he belongs on the red carpet on Sunday?

"It's the pinnacle of your profession to be nominated for an Oscar, but what's funny as a writer is that you are still at the bottom of the food chain.

"You are walking along the red carpet and all anybody is shouting is 'get out of the way!' because Penelope Cruz is behind you. They really don't care about a short man in a suit!"


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific