Accidental Stars of 'Borat' Want the Last Laugh
Nov. 12, 2006 — -- Some unwitting stars of the hit comedy "Borat" don't get the joke.
In the fall of 2005, Michael Psenicska, owner of the Perry Hall Driving School in Baltimore County, Md., got a call from a production company making a foreign documentary film. Their star needed driving lessons.
Psenicska was not surprised: His school offers a class specifically for immigrant drivers. But when the student arrived, Psenicska had no idea that the supposed Kazakh journalist, Borat, was really British comedian, Sacha Baron Cohen. Little did he know that 18 months later, the "foreign documentary" he agreed to appear in would be the number one movie at the American box office.
Psenicska and several others approached by the film's producers are the inadvertent stars of "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan." The feature film grossed over $26.4 million when it opened last weekend in limited release. With the number of theaters tripling to over 2,500 this weekend, it held the top spot, earning an estimated $29 million more.
But the films "stars" aren't celebrating the chart-topping debut.
For more on the film and the objections of some of its "stars," watch "World News" this evening.
Most recently, Britain's Daily Mail newspaper reported that villagers in the Kazakh town of Glod, where Baron Cohen filmed scenes, feel that they were tricked and ripped off by the actor and his producers.
Psenicska and several others said they were duped into participating in the film. At least three people who appeared in the film claim a producer handed them cash to distract them from the release form that followed.
"I saw $500 and signed it," Psenicska said. "I thought nothing about it because I would release them to do a documentary."
Car salesman Jim Sell said he also was deceived by the lure of cold-hard cash when the producers of Borat approached him to participate at the Criswell Chevrolet car dealership in Gaithersburg, Md.
"They put [the release] in front of me right when they were giving me the $150," Sell said.
He didn't read through the release because the crew had already started filming. Sell also worries that his reputation as a dealer of fine vehicles will be tarnished by the implication that he sold Borat an ice-cream truck. (For the record, he did not.)
Joe Behar said he was duped into participating in the movie when members of the production team arrived at the Four Seasons Kosher Bed & Breakfast, which he owns with his wife Miriam in Newton, Mass.