Sacha Baron Cohen has been racking up awards for both Borat Subsequent Film and his role as the ever magnetic activist Abbie Hoffman in Aaron Sorkin’s timely The Trials of the Chicago 7—for which the Cambridge-educated British actor, writer, and creator has earned his first acting Oscar nomination.
In the tradition of Lenny Bruce, and yes, Abbie Hoffman, Baron Cohen has mastered the art of engaging audiences in political discourse through the use of controversial comedy. That, and a willingness to put himself in precarious and inherently dangerous circumstances to expose cringe-worthy, tragic, and downright hilarious revelations right out of the horses’ mouths for all to hear, makes him the most radically relevant comedian working today.
Activism aside, the father of three’s wide-ranging breadth of characters in a career spanning drama, satire, comedy, and musicals (he sings too!) prove time and again that, as an artist and performer—he is deserving of every one of his recent accolades.
Here, he shares with us what he’s learned from Abbie Hoffman.
WEAR A HELMET WHEN YOU PROTEST
“As I prepared for the role of playing Abbie Hoffman in The Trial of the Chicago 7, I tried to read everything I could about and by him, including his book, Steal This Book. In it, he explained one of the most important things you should do when you go out to march and protest peacefully—wear a helmet so your head doesn’t get split open by police batons. Seems like good advice!”
“In public, Abbie was a performer who understood the power of TV and played for the cameras. But in private, he was very different. He struggled. He battled depression and, tragically, took his own life. I tried to capture that nuance in the movie—his public dynamism and his private pain. It’s a reminder that everyone struggles in their own way and that we have to take care of each other.”
SACRED COWS MAKE THE TASTIEST HAMBURGER
“That’s one of my favorite Abbie quotes. He showed us that, when it works, comedy and satire can expose abuses of power and uncover the ills of society. To many people, Abbie seemed like a clown. He famously said he would levitate the Pentagon. But he was deadly serious, and his humor always had a purpose. During the trial, he and Jerry Rubin wore judges’ robes to show the absurdity of the trial. He used pranks and laughter to recruit more people to the cause.”
CHECK OUT SACHA
As Abbie Hoffman in Aaron Sorkin’s Oscar nominated The Trial of the Chicago 7
As the title character in the Oscar nominated Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
As the title characters in his own satires Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan; Bruno; and his comedy series Da Ali G Show
As various characters in his Showtime Emmy-nominated Who is America?
As Eli Cohen in Netflix’s The Spy
As Thenardier in Tom Hooper’s Oscar-nominated Les Miserables
As Pirelli in Tim Burton’s Oscar nominated Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
As the Station Inspector in Martin Scorsese’s Oscar nominated Hugo