This post has been updated to include comments from Rudy Giuliani.
The success of Borat provided a particular challenge to the makers of its sequel. Now that Sacha Baron Cohen’s Kazakh journalist is an internationally recognized comedic figure, his utility as an undercover prankster is markedly diminished. The new Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm gets around this in a variety of ways. There are more scripted bits back in Kazakhstan, some scenes where Borat himself goes in disguise, and a lot of business with Borat’s daughter, Tutar (Maria Bakalova), who now handles the yeoman’s work of getting Americans to embarrass themselves in front of someone they believe to be a friendly foreigner. Of these, one sequence late in the film stands out as the most squirm-inducing of Baron Cohen’s recent output. It involves Tutar, a hotel room, and Rudy Giuliani. It’s the scene you won’t be able to stop talking about once you’ve seen the film, and if you don’t want to be spoiled, stop reading now.
First, some backstory. The main thrust of the film is Borat’s quest to get in good with a member of Trump’s inner circle on behalf of the nation of Kazakhstan. His original target is Mike Pence, to whom he plans to present Tutar as a potential bride, but that scheme fizzles out after the pair gets tossed out of CPAC. (One suspects the straitlaced Pence is probably too savvy to fall for Baron Cohen’s tricks anyway.) They turn to plan B — Giuliani. As his boozy brunch with my colleague Olivia Nuzzi proved, the former mayor is an altogether more appealing mark. This is a man for whom the words “off the record” feel as foreign as, say, shady Ukrainian businessmen. To Rudy, indiscretion is the better part of valor.
So they set up an interview in a New York hotel room. By now, Tutar has transformed herself from a mud-stained wretch into the spitting image of a bleach-blonde conservative influencer. She’s flirtatious from the jump, calling Rudy one of her “greatest heroes” and touching his knee. He’s eating it up. She asks him how America can prevent something like the coronavirus from happening again. “China manufactured the virus and let it out,” he tells her. “And they deliberately spread it all over the world.” He claims Trump’s coronavirus strategy has saved a million lives.
From there, things get uncomfortably intimate. Tutar explains that she was nervous, since she’s never been in front of the camera before. “I think you’re gonna look pretty good,” he tells her. (At this point, Borat interrupts in disguise as a sound guy and tries to call off the interview, but Rudy reassures him everything’s fine.) Once the interview’s over, Rudy and Tutar adjourn to the suite’s bedroom, which is rigged with hidden cameras. They share a drink, he helps her take off her mic, and asks for her email address and phone number. He puts his hand on her hip as she untucks his shirt to help him with his own mike. Rudy tucks his shirt back in, then in a moment I suspect will be studied for some time, he reclines on the bed, his hands lingering in his pants. He appears to be getting ready for … something, but before any lines of legal liability get crossed, Borat interrupts again, this time in lingerie, offering to take Tutar’s place.
In the film, the suggestion is obvious: Rudy thought he was about to hook up with this young babe. (Giuliani is not currently married, though according to the Daily News, he’s been in a relationship since 2018.) There’s some uncertainty in the footage about what exactly went down, though — the editing of the scene is a little choppy, and the horror-movie score is doing a lot of heavy lifting. It’s worth mentioning, too, that while a lot of the squeamishness of the scene rests on the fact that Tutar is supposed to be 15, Bakalova herself is 24. But still! Whether or not Giuliani was indeed caught pre-flagrante delicto — and considering how much time we’ve spent talking about Jeffrey Toobin’s Zoom incident, we may not have the energy to go full Zapruder on another old dick — he does appear to have fallen for a classic honey trap, the yin to the yang of Mike Pence’s coronavirus complacency at CPAC in the movie’s cosmology of Trump-adjacent foolishness.
In real life, Giuliani certainly seemed to think he’d gotten the better of the encounter. “I thought this must be a scam or a shake-down, so I reported it to the police,” he told “Page Six” back in July. “I only later realized it must have been Sacha Baron Cohen. I thought about all the people he previously fooled and I felt good about myself because he didn’t get me.” (Both that response, and his press secretary’s, elided the matter of Bakalova.) In a series of Tweets sent Wednesday evening, Giuliani returned to the issue, calling “the Borat video” a “complete fabrication” designed to distract from the Hunter Biden laptop story. Giuliani was merely tucking in his shirt, he said, and denied any impropriety: “At no time before, during, or after the interview was I ever inappropriate.”
In July, Giuliani emphasized that he was a fan of Baron Cohen and Borat. That is probably not still the case!