Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Real Reason You Don't Hear From Sacha Baron Cohen Anymore

Hollywood was once very niiiiiice to Sacha Baron Cohen, the British comedian who broke through in the U.S. in a big way with a starring role in his 2006 mockumentary Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. Centered around an often crude, sexist, racist and naive reporter from Central Asia that Baron Cohen developed on Da Ali G Show, it opened up opportunities for Cohen to star in a wide range of big movies, including comedies like Talladega Nights, Bruno, and The Dictator, epic family films like Hugo and Alice Through the Looking Glass, and even musicals like Sweeney Todd and Les Misérables. But Baron Cohen hasn't popped up in the cineplex as often as he once did—and here are a few reasons why.

He's a family man

Baron Cohen doesn't churn out movies at a rate of one or two a year like many of his entertainment industry peers. That's by design. Baron Cohen and his wife, actress Isla Fisher (Now You See Me, Wedding Crashers) have three young children, and they both want to be active, present parents. "He makes like one film every two or three years so there's rarely any problem there. And while the little ones are small, I only want to take supporting roles," Fisher says. "I just want to be there while they grow up. We both do."

He can't do his fictional-characters-in-the-world movies anymore

Even if Baron Cohen wanted to keep making reality-blurring movies anymore, he doesn't think he could. A victim of his own success, he fears he's too recognizable, and the world too connected and aware, for him to pull off a movie like Borat or Bruno again. There's also the matter of the inherent danger in making those kinds of movies. He's got a family to support, and his wife, Isla Fisher, says she was constantly worried that his actions would get him arrested or sued.

Or worse: Baron Cohen said on WTF with Marc Maron that while filming Bruno in Kansas, he had to make a quick exit when a hotel manager called the cops when he and the actor playing his assistant (Gustaf Hammarsten) were found "chained to each other in this S&M crazy gear." Baron Cohen and Hammarsten had to jump off of a fire escape to avoid capture.

But even a minor, non-deadly, or illegal stunt from Baron Cohen still stresses out Fisher. When Baron Cohen made a surprise appearance as Ali G at the 2016 Academy Awards (it was truly a surprise—show producers had told him not to do it), Fisher had to be complicit in the prank, and smuggled the Ali G costume into the awards ceremony under her dress. She then had to stand outside a door backstage at the Oscars while Baron Cohen changed inside and producers kept knocking to see what he was up to. "I had to lie to everyone, which made me feel really guilty," Fisher said on Jimmy Kimmel Live. Afterward Fisher said she "went straight to the bar, I'm not gonna lie."

The Brothers Grimsby was a huge box office bomb

Baron Cohen's last big movie was 2016's The Brothers Grimsby (in the U.K., it was called just Grimsby). Like some of Baron Cohen's previous films, the mismatched spy comedy The Brothers Grimsby made headlines, not for its creativity (critics weren't impressed) but for a scene in which Donald Trump is accidentally infected with HIV. The movie was wildly unsuccessful, both in the U.S. (where it made just $6.8 million) and in Baron Cohen's native U.K. (where Grimsby had a take of around £6 million (about $7 million). It was one of Baron Cohen's few leading roles in a movie in which he didn't play a character interacting with real people, and audiences simply didn't respond favorably.

Bruno didn't do too well either

Baron Cohen created three main characters for Da Ali G Show, and he brought all three to the movies. Ali G Indahouse wasn't released theatrically in the U.S., but Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan was a massive hit in 2006, bringing in $128 million and earning Baron Cohen and collaborators an Oscar nomination for screenwriting. The movie, which addressed racism and xenophobia by placing Baron Cohen in character as a Kazakhstani reporter in real-life situations, either caught lightning in a bottle or had more addressable themes, because his 2009 followup with his third character, Brüno—an openly gay, fashion-obsessed Austrian weirdo—underperformed, bringing in less than half of what Borat did.

His big breakthrough dramatic role fell through

In 2010, it was announced that Baron Cohen was considering starring as singer Freddie Mercury (to whom he bears a resemblance) in a biopic about the late Queen frontman. Baron Cohen was actively involved in trying to get the movie off the ground, even consulting major directors like David Fincher and Tom Hooper, but in 2013, he pulled out—and the film still hasn't been made. Queen guitarist Brian May said it was because Baron Cohen's "presence in the movie would be very distracting," doubting that the larger-than-life actor could disappear into the role. In 2016, Baron Cohen gave his side of the story: He left because the surviving members of Queen wanted the movie to be a tame biopic about the entire band; he wanted it to be purely a Freddie Mercury movie, one that included the singer's rock 'n' roll exploits.

What's next for Sacha Baron Cohen?

We probably haven't heard the last of Baron Cohen—he's just laying low until he emerges with another big character in a big movie. Cohen has two main projects in the hopper for the next few years. The first is a timely bit of satire called Greed, in which he plays a money-mad, financial law-skirting billionaire. The other is a big-budget big-screen adaptation of Mandrake the Magician, in which he'll star as the title character—familiar to millions through his 1930s comic strip about a crusading, heroic master of illusion.