Bruno NC17? The Marketing Campaign Has Begun

by Robert A. Saunders on April 1st, 2009

On March 31st, CBS News reported that Sacha Baron Cohen’s new Bruno film had received an NC-17 rating from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). For all intents and purposes, this is an X-rating, and thus guarantees the film will not even break even at the box office. Industry insiders spent the rest of the day hemming and hawing about film’s need to get an R-rating, footage on the “cutting room floor,” and the supposed studio’s disappointment. However, none of those interviewed seemed to understand that they were being played by the world’s finest con/performance artist.

Sacha Baron Cohen has made a career out of parlaying controversy into fame and financial rewards. Whether it is provoking Kazakhstan, the world’s ninth largest nation, into threatening him with lawsuits, using obscenity on the BBC, nude wrestling obese Armenian-Americans, or encouraging Arizonans to throw their Jews down the well, the Cambridge-educated mountebank knows how to play media and his fans.

While the NC-17 rating is the initial salvo in what will be a several month-long media blitz intended to fill theatre seats with American, British, and Anglophone European bottoms, the actual marketing campaign for the as-yet-officially-untitled Bruno film began long ago. SBC has been slipping the media clips of his adventures as the flamboyantly gay Austrian fashionista with a Nazi fetish for some time.

Throughout the past 18 months, Bruno has been spotted in the Americas, Asia, and Europe, generating press clippings in each case. It began with sightings at the Wichita airport, which were quickly posted to the Web, followed by much a publicized controversy over a gay wrestling match in the Ozarks. In Israel, his interview of Mossad agent and a Palestinian academic instantly made news around the world. In California, his abortive attempt to interview Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (a fellow Austrian, of sorts) attracted even more media attention. In Milan, he stormed an Agatha Ruiz de la Prada fashion show before being escorted away by police, who soon recognized him as a world famous trickster. He then made headlines in Paris after disrupting English designer Stella McCartney’s show by sucking on a tampon. But now that the film is in the can, the real campaign begins.

The NC-17 brouhaha is a simple but effective ruse to get Sacha back on our minds as the summer approaches. It also gave Harry Smith, anchor of the CBS Early Show, the opportunity to recall ,with more than a little nostalgia, his on-air wrestling match with Borat in late 2007, just before the premiere of Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. The video of the two men grab-assing remains a YouTube favorite and likely saw a surge in views on this, the first day of April.

Spring is in the air, and for Sacha Baron Cohen that means it’s time to get you start fantasizing about Bruno’s tanned, shaven legs (and other body parts). Welcome to continuing performances of Sacha Baron Cohen’s global minstrel show.


Posted in Sacha Baron Cohen    Tagged with Bruno, CBS News, Harry Smith, Sacha Baron Cohen


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