High Five! "Borat" Director Larry Charles Talks Awards, Religion Doc, Motley Crüe Biopic
In the film, Borat (Sacha Baron Cohen), a bumbling reservoir of prejudice, treks across America, interviewing everyone from political figures to average Joes, purportedly to make a documentary about the "U.S. and A" for the good folks back home in Kazakhstan. The people he meets are more than willing to open up, revealing the seedy underbelly of American bigotry (several of the people who appeared in the film have since claimed they were hoodwinked by the filmmakers; several lawsuits against the film are still pending).
"My film has no chance of winning a Golden Tomato Award -- NOT!"
However, for all the film's lowbrow humor, critics found "Borat" to be one of the smartest, most subversive films of recent years, and for that, the movie won the 2007 Golden Tomato Award for best-reviewed comedy. In addition, the film has been nominated for two Golden Globes (Best Musical or Comedy and a Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy nod for Cohen) and has been selected as one of the American Film Institute's Movies of the Year. And it was made on a smaller budget than most other studio films. "I'm a big believer that we shouldn't need to spend $100 million to make a great movie," Charles said. "If you have $100 million, you should probably be saving an African country. But for $4 million or $5 million or $10 million, you can make a great movie."
So what does Charles do for an encore? The director told RT he's working on a comedy/documentary with Bill Maher that looks askance at contemporary religion. He's also completed a script for "The Dirt," based upon Motley Crüe's absurdly lurid oral history bio of the same name. Charles talked with Rotten Tomatoes about "Borat"'s awards potential, why little movies are better than big ones, and the odd similarities between Borat and Bob Dylan.
Rotten Tomatoes: Would you say winning the Golden Tomato Award is the apex of your career thus far?
Larry Charles: Absolutely. I can't imagine anything else that would come close. Unless, possibly, a Nobel Peace Prize, which I'm still holding out for.
RT: Has the recognition exceeded your expectations?
LC: In some ways it really has. You can't predict that part of it. I've been involved in other successful things, [and] it's the same thing. You try to make something great, and you hope when you put it out there that it gets that kind of response, and sometimes that happens.
Unfortunately, these antiques were harmed in the making of "Borat."
RT: People talk a lot about Sacha Baron Cohen staying in character as Borat, Ali G and Bruno. But it must be difficult for the filmmakers and crew to stay in character as well.
LC: We all, especially me, had to play a character as well. I wasn't Larry Charles when we were on the road. We all had to be in character, and we had to balance that with our aesthetic and logistical needs to produce the movie properly. So yes, that was a challenge, because all the lines that are normally drawn for people's roles in a movie, behind the scenes or in front of the scenes were blurred in kind of a radical way to make this movie.
RT: There have been complaints from some of the people who were in the movie as to how they were depicted --
LC: All groundless and baseless. I believe it's kind of a continuation of the conceptual comedy that we're doing that people are now complaining and suing. I feel like the movie doesn't have boundaries, like this is part of the movie in some weird way, these lawsuits and complaints. Beyond that, we have all the footage, the hours that we shot with these people. They should be happy that we're not putting out the full, unexpurgated footage. They reveal themselves, [but] they never are forced to reveal themselves. It's a choice they make to reveal themselves, to show their true selves. The fact that they're complaining about it now is very disingenuous.
How can the Academy ignore this?
RT: What's going on with "The Dirt," based on the career of Motley Crüe?
LC: I just handed in a draft of the script, so I'm waiting to hear. I don't know if you've read "The Dirt," but it's almost a better book than Motley Crüe deserves, in a way, because it's really about America. It's about the excess, and dysfunction, and it's about us, as told through the metaphor of Motley Crüe.
RT: Are the members of the band going to play themselves?
LC: No, they won't really be involved. The film spans their childhoods and their early days. I don't think any of the guys will be involved in front of the camera. We will have to cast all those parts, and that will be kind of fun to do. To find someone who can play Tommy Lee is a challenge. It will be a very interesting audition I can tell you that.
RT: What are you doing next?
LC: I'm doing a documentary with Bill Maher, almost like a non-fiction comedy about religion. We just got back from Israel, and Rome, and London, and Amsterdam, and so now we're going to go out and shoot in the United States. Hopefully, you guys will recognize that next year? We're talking to Muslim extremists, Jewish fanatics, Catholic traditionalists; we're talking to philosophers and atheists and fundamentalists and evangelicals, just everybody, to get a full range of this dialogue about religion in the world today.
RT: Is it funny?
LC: It's so absurd and outrageous that it's gonna shock people, I think. It's really gonna shock people.
Click here for the full interview!