Paula Abdul Was ‘Very Game’ to Sit on a Mexican, and Other Highlights From Brüno’s Production Notes

The production notes for most movies typically consist of boring stories from the film’s actors and director about how wonderful it was to work together. So you can imagine our astonishment when a kindly Universal publicist e-mailed us a set of actually interesting ones for Brüno last night (an excerpt from the intro: “The crew found themselves receiving calls from the FBI warning of death threats and dodging clenched fists, angry mobs, and loaded guns at every step of the way”). And since Sacha Baron Cohen is unlikely to give any out-of-character interviews for Brüno, and this might be our only chance to hear a bunch of fun stories, we’ve posted spoiler-y highlights after the jump.

• The scene in which Brüno storms the runway at a fashion show wearing a Velcro suit (and, inadvertently, many other articles of clothing) was nearly scuttled when the Italian Chamber of Fashion became aware that Sacha Baron Cohen and a crew were attempting to crash events during Milan Fashion Week and issued a press release warning designers. Police said they would arrest Baron Cohen on sight. So here’s how he got the footage he needed:

Baron Cohen insisted that they change everyone’s appearance and create an entirely new crew. Director [Larry] Charles shaved his beard and modified his hairstyle; likewise, producer Mazer cut his hair, as did other members of the Milanese camera crew. Everyone involved in the final stunt changed his or her outfits … Baron Cohen found a hidden nook backstage and transformed into Brüno … Bursting out of his hiding place and onto the backstage, Baron Cohen sprinted past stunned models and lunged by waiting security guards … Just as the team caught the footage they needed, security shut the lights off and dragged Baron Cohen off the stage. Police cuffed the actor and hauled him to jail while his fellow crewmembers chased him down … Baron Cohen was strip searched and questioned by seven police officers.

• According to whoever wrote the production notes, it was “stunningly easy” to get both Paula Abdul and LaToya Jackson to use Mexican gardeners (who were really actors) as chairs, despite Abdul’s claims to the contrary. “Both were very game,” allegedly.

• In one scene, Brüno and a co-star are found in a hotel room chained together wearing bondage gear; a member of the hotel staff calls the police. This ensues:

[W|ord arrived that the police were in the lobby. As Kansas City’s finest rode up the elevator, both men made a mad dash down the emergency exit staircase. To their alarm, they discovered the staircase ended at the second story. They were trapped. It was time to choose between facing the police (read: possible arrest and deportation for the Europeans) and a 15-foot leap to freedom. Both men took the plunge and fled into the escape vehicle.

• For a segment of the movie, Brüno visits the Middle East. In one scene, he runs through a conservative Hasidic neighborhood in Israel wearing hot pants and a bonnet. As you might imagine, this doesn’t go over well. The movie cuts to something else before we see what happens:

A large, angry crowd of Hasidic Jews began to gather, intent upon harming Baron Cohen for his actions. The performer was forced to hide in the store of a compassionate shopkeeper until a van could reach him and assist his getaway. Only then could he hunch down on the floor of the getaway vehicle and avoid the growing potential riot situation.

• For a scene that didn’t make the final cut, Baron Cohen visited the home of a “prominent white supremacist” who “did not take it very well when Brüno introduced him to his then-gay lover, Diesel. The supremacist cocked his fist and went to attack Baron Cohen, who was able to avoid his punch and make it safely out of the house.”

• When Brüno went camping with four hunters in Alabama, one of the hunters “pulled a weapon on a crewmember and pointed it at him.”

• The first time the crew tried to shoot Brüno’s cage-fighting scene, in Texarkana, Arkansas, police left the event when they learned the filmmakers’ goal was to upset the audience by having two men kiss. Then this happened:

Moments after the first embrace between the two men, chairs were pulled up and tossed, a fighter who had been watching from the audience climbed into the cage and challenged Baron Cohen to a fight. Director Charles got none of the footage he needed, but Baron Cohen and the crew escaped just in time. The police did not return to the scene.

• The second time they tried to shoot the cage-fighting scene (in Fort Smith, Arkansas, this time), the crew got the footage it needed, but things still didn’t go much better:

Lessons learned, the team made sure there were no glass bottles that could be used as projectiles, and they wired chairs together so fans couldn’t pick them up and lob them into the ring. Seconds after the kiss, attendees became furious. Soon after, one member of the crowd unwired a chair and threw it at Baron Cohen’s head. At that point, it was a near riot and the performers were rushed from the premises. Audience members and other fighters alike were screaming epithets and surrounding the bus and the field team. It ended after a stand off that lasted many hours, with 40 police officers from the Fort Smith division helping to rescue the cast and crew and quell the angry mob.

Paula Abdul Was ‘Very Game’ to Sit on a Mexican, and Other Highlights From Brüno’s Production Notes