Actress Maria Bakalova opened up about her role in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm in a New York Times interview on Tuesday
Maria Bakalova, a 24-year-old native of Bulgaria, shot to stardom last month with her portrayal of 15-year-old Tutar Sagdiyev in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.
In perhaps the most memorable scene from the film, Bakalova posed as a conservative journalist interviewing Giuliani, Donald Trump‘s personal lawyer, before leading him into a hotel room.
As Bakalova helped him take off his microphone, Giuliani reclined on a bed and appeared to put his hands down his pants before he was interrupted by Cohen’s titular character, who screamed: ‘She’s 15. She’s too old for you.’
Unaware that he had been duped, Giuliani immediately called the police. He later insisted that he was merely tucking in his shirt, not doing anything untoward.
Bakalova opened up about what it was like to film that portion of the movie in a profile for the New York Times published Wednesday.
She said she always trusted Cohen, whom she called her ‘nonbiological father’and ‘guardian angel’, to keep her safe – but that she did get nervous when Giuliani called the cops.
‘I knew [Sacha] would never put me in a dangerous situation. At the same time, we had a security team that was able to save us in a moment,’ Bakalova said when asked if she ever felt like she was in physical danger while filming the movie.
‘Maybe the scene when we were at the hotel and Rudy Giuliani called the police, I was kind of scared that something would happen. But fortunately, we escaped.’
In perhaps the most memorable scene from the film, Bakalova posed as a conservative journalist interviewing Rudy Giuliani before leading him to a hotel room. As Bakalova helped him take off his mic, Giuliani reclined on a bed and appeared to put his hands in his pants
Bakalova said the Giuliani scene was the only one throughout the film where she felt she might be in physical danger. ‘Sacha jumped into the room quickly, because he’s been worried about me,’ she said of the moment Borat entered the hotel room (pictured). ‘If he were late, I don’t know how things were going to go’
Bakalova said she and Baron prepared for the scene by talking through different scenarios that could take place.
‘In all of the scenarios, I was confident that Sacha will save me and he will save the scene, so it’s not going to be a disaster,’ she said.
Despite having prepared extensively, Bakalova was still nervous. She said Cohen coached her to use her nerves to make the scene more convincing.
She said she had heard of Giuliani before they did the interview, in the context of the 9/11 terror attacks in 2001, when he was the mayor of New York City.
But she said she didn’t know much about him beyond that because: ‘I’m not American, I don’t get into American politics.’
After the Giuliani scene was leaked online ahead of the movie’s release – sparking rumors that he had knowingly tried to engage in sexual conduct with a minor – the former mayor came out to insist that he was not doing anything inappropriate and was merely tucking in his shirt.
Giuliani also charged that the scene was ‘fabricated’ and branded Cohen a ‘stone-cold liar’.
Bakalova declined to elaborate on her side of the story when probed by Times reporter Dave Itzkoff.
The newspaper reported that she responded with a laugh, saying: ‘I saw everything that you saw. If you saw the movie, that’s our message. We want everybody to see the movie and judge for themselves.’
When pressed to explain what it looked like from her angle, Bakalova said: ‘I believe it’s my back [to the camera] there, we can see what he’s doing in the mirror.’
Bakalova said she was nervous about the Giuliani scene even though she and Cohen had talked through possible scenarios extensively beforehand
Bakalova is seen helping Giuliani take off his microphone after their interview
Bakalova declined to comment on whether she thought Giuliani was in fact acting inappropriately, saying: ‘We want everybody to see the movie and judge for themselves’
After the Giuliani scene was leaked online ahead of the movie’s release, the former mayor came out to insist he was not doing anything inappropriate and was merely tucking in his shirt
Unsatisfied with that answer, Itzkoff asked again: ‘What do you think was taking place? You’re the only other person who was in the room. Did you have any other indication as to what he was doing?’
But Bakalova punted once again, saying: ‘What do you think he was doing?’
‘I can see how either interpretation could be correct. But I wasn’t there, and you were. Do you have an opinion either way?’ Itzkoff probed.
‘Sacha jumped into the room quickly, because he’s been worried about me,’ Bakalova said. ‘So, if he were late, I don’t know how things were going to go. But he came just in time.’
Asked whether she believed Giuliani knew Tutar was 15 when he agreed to do the interview, Bakalova said she wasn’t sure. ‘I’m not the person who is actually booking these people,’ she said.
Regardless, she says she doesn’t feel bad about the mockery Giuliani has received over the film.
‘Movies like this are showing people’s true colors… It’s going to show Rudy’s real character. You’re responsible for your own decisions,’ she said.
The Times profile marked the first time Bakalova has spoken about the movie without Cohen by her side.
At another point in the interview, Bakalova joked that she wasn’t entirely sure the movie was real when she went to her audition, due to the intense secrecy surrounding the entire project.
‘I heard from a friend there was an open call for the lead role in a Hollywood movie. And I was like, that’s not possible. We are Bulgarians. Nobody can actually see us in lead roles,’ she explained.
‘I sent out self-tapes, then they called me for a screen test in London. But the project was so confidential, I was like, is this actually a project?
‘I was sure it was going to be a human trafficking situation. I had no idea I was going to meet Sacha – it was a surprise.’
Bakalova joked that she wasn’t entirely sure the Borat movie was real when she went to her audition, due to the intense secrecy surrounding the entire project
In an interview with Good Morning America last month, Cohen described how Bakalova, who graduated from film school last year, blew him away with her audition.
‘She’s hilarious and has the capacity to deliver a scene and make you cry. That’s what finally got her the part,’ Cohen said.
‘She’s one of a kind. Imagine coming to America for the first time, and you’re playing a role with real people in some terrifying situations. She got through it all. She’s a revelation.’
In her Times interview, Bakalova said the Borat sequel was extra special for her because it allowed her to honor her home country.
‘Things like that are not happening to people like us, Bulgarians,’ she said. ‘Most of the time, there is eventually a small, small extra part in a movie, two or three lines as like a prostitute or a Mafia guy.
‘I will be really grateful to Sacha for giving this platform to an Eastern European, to play a strong and complicated character who’s not just one thing.’
She said to her the film is so much more than a silly comedy.
‘It’s a movie of how a girl can grow up and should grow up. How people can treat you as not equal because you’re a woman and what kind of options you have,’ she said.
Cohen described how Bakalova blew him away with her Borat audition in an interview with Good Morning America last month (pictured)