Sacha Baron Cohen received a letter from a lawyer saying he was being sued for $100,000 for his role in Borat. The lawyer added “P.S. Loved the movie. Can you sign a poster for my son Jeremy?”
Two residents of Glod, Romania, the Gypsy village in which the opening scenes of Borat were filmed, hired attorney Edward Fagan to sue the makers of Borat for $30 million. They alleged that the intent of the film was misrepresented to them, that the poorest members of their village were made to look like “savages”, and that they were
underpaid, particularly when their minute salaries were compared to the millions earned by the completed film. During several segments, children were filmed with guns and other weapons and in another scene, an amputee who lost his arm was told to wear a rubber fist sex toy. The lawsuit was dismissed in New York hearing on the grounds that the allegations were too vague to stand up in court.
The government of Kazakhstan threatened Baron Cohen with legal action following the 2005 MTV Europe Music Awards ceremony in Lisbon, and the authority in charge of the country’s country-code top-level domain name removed the website that he had created for his character Borat (previously: http://www.borat.kz) for alleged violation of the law—specifically, registering for the domain under a false name. The New York Times, (among others), has reported that Baron Cohen, (in character as Borat), replied: “I’d like to state that I have no connection with Mr Cohen and fully support my government decision to sue this Jew”. He was, however, defended by Dariga Nazarbayeva, a politician and the daughter of Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who stated, “We should not be afraid of humour and we shouldn’t try to control everything, I think.” The deputy foreign minister of Kazakhstan later invited Baron Cohen to visit the country, stating that he could learn that “women drive cars, wine is made of grapes, and Jews are free to go to synagogues”. After the worldwide success of the Borat film, the Kazakh government, including the president, altered their stance on Baron Cohen’s parody, tacitly recognising the invaluable press the controversy created for their country.
Baron Cohen encountered another problem around his Borat character. Two of the three University of South Carolina students who appear in Borat sued the filmmakers, alleging that they were duped into signing release forms while drunk, and that false promises were made that the footage was for a documentary that would never be screened in the US. On 11 December 2006, a Los Angeles judge denied the pair a restraining order to remove them from the film. The lawsuit was dismissed in February 2007.
On 22 May 2009, a charity worker at a seniors’ bingo game sued Baron Cohen, claiming an incident shot for Brüno at a charity bingo tournament left her disabled. However, the worker later retracted her statement, saying the “actor never struck her”, but that he “beat her down emotionally to the point she’s now confined to a wheelchair”. The scene did not make the final cut for the film. The case was dismissed in late November 2009 on Anti-SLAPP grounds with all attorney’s fees to be paid by the charity worker. The dismissal was appealed and upheld on 12 September 2011.
A lawsuit was filed on 30 April 2010 in the District of Columbia by Palestinian Christian Ayman Abu Aita of Beit Sahour, Bethlehem, West Bank, against Baron Cohen relating to his interview which was used in Brüno. Aita alleges that he has been defamed by false accusations that he is a terrorist. Aita included David Letterman in the suit based on comments made during the 7 July 2009 appearance by Baron Cohen on the Late Show with David Letterman. On 4 November 2010, the D.C. case was dismissed with Aita given 120 days to file in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of New York or have the case permanently dismissed. The case was re-filed in the Supreme Court of New York.