British actor Sacha Baron Cohen announced he will no longer be going undercover to produce satirical films and claimed he was 'afraid for his life' after infiltrating a right-wing rally in Washington State last summer.
Baron Cohen, who is most famous for his roles in Borat and Da Ali G Show, came to a rally called 'March for Our Rights' at the Washington State Capitol, where he went undercover in an attempt to expose former President Donald Trump's voter base.
The rally hosted by constitutionalist militia group Washington Three Percent led to Baron Cohen fearing for his life after he took over the stage dressed as a country hillbilly and sang an extremely volatile song, encouraging rally-goers to participate so he could paint them in a false light in his upcoming film.
While performing, participants immediately caught wind of the act and started booing the actor, prompting event organizers to try to pull audio and attempt to get him off-stage.
That was the moment that Baron Cohen claimed was the cause for him to hang up his disguises and retire his undercover characters for good. "At some point your luck runs out. So I never wanted to do this stuff again," said the actor. "I can’t."
Sacha Baron Cohen believed there was a "high possibility of getting shot" at the rally but chose to go undercover anyways, and claimed there was a "deeply unethical government in power" and needed to produce content that would get citizens to vote against the former President.
"I was wearing a bulletproof vest, and that's only the second time in my career that I've ever done that. But I was told that there was a chance that somebody might try to shoot at me. I was very aware that once the crowd realized that I was a fake, that it could turn really ugly and it could be really dangerous," said Baron Cohen in an interview with NPR.
"I remember putting on the bulletproof vest before the scene, looking in the mirror of a nearby hotel, and ... I remember asking the makeup guy, 'Do you think I'm going to get shot today?' And he's like, 'No, no, no, no.' I said, 'Well, why am I putting on the bulletproof vest then?' And he didn't really have an answer,” the actor said.
"I kept on coming back to this feeling. Again, I didn't want to do Borat again. I didn't want to go undercover again. I felt I had to do anything I could to remind people of what, in 90 minutes, in a humorous way, of what Trump had done the prior four years, and I felt I had to try and infiltrate his inner circle, which we did do with Rudy Giuliani and Mike Pence. We felt we had to do that. I felt I had to get this movie out before the election. But, yes, maybe I'm crazy."
Founder and former leader of the Washington State Three Percent Matt Marshall who helped organize the event, told NPR the event was a "kick in the teeth."
Sacha Baron Cohen’s racist sing-along went viral after he got members in the crowd to sing-along with his racist lyrics, even though those singing weren’t actually rally participants, they were allegedly actors that Baron Cohen hired to pull off his stunt.
Matt Marshall, a constitutionalist conservative activist, who has spent the past years of his life trying to convince citizens of Washington state that the Three Percent is not a 'racist white-nationalist' group, was excited after Baron Cohen's group, who fronted as Back to Work USA, offered to help with the event.
Back to Work USA took over the event setup from the original event organizers and provided a stage and portable toilets; which was estimated at $50,000.
Marshall said organizers thought it was too good to be true but took the help anyways. "I mean, they played the game," Marshall said in an interview to NPR. "We talked to them about how frustrating it was to be labeled racist, and they agreed with us. Like, we really let the guard down and trusted them."
Marshall said that Baron Cohen signed up as a last-minute performance under an alias name where he wasn’t able to vet the performer in time, but because Back to Work USA vouched for Cohen, he was able to perform. "It all looked like it was playing out, checking out," Marshall said. But then the actor took to the stage, and it became clear that something was off.
"A guy that's like wearing almost a clown suit of red, white and blue gets up there," Marshall told NPR. "Obvious disguise. Like a fake nose and chin. And he starts playing and the first thought when you hear his voice is, 'Dude, is this like a bad impression of Borat?'"
Marshall and his friends attempted to rush the stage and cut the mic, but they were stopped by security guards hired by the new sponsors, preventing Marshall from intervening. "This is my event!" Marshall recalled thinking. "He's not going to turn my event into a racist spectacle!"
Eventually the actor, band, sponsors, and security guards escaped the stage and fled the event. At this time, there is no evidence of Sacha Baron Cohen being in imminent danger as they were able to swiftly flee the rally without incident.