This is Sacha Baron Cohen’s greatest performance (and it isn’t Borat)
Sacha Baron Cohen. The king of satire, a “comedic genius,” one who can dupe anyone he wishes through a ludicrous character portrayal. He’s one-of-a-kind and arguably created his genre of entertainment.
But what many don’t know about Baron Cohen – his greatest performance didn’t put any of his prized qualities and skills to use. Truly, the role was near the opposite of what he’s known for.
Sacha Baron Cohen as an Israeli spy
In Netflix’s The Spy, Baron Cohen landed the role of Eli Cohen, (coincidence, extremely common Jewish surname) the greatest spy in Israel’s notable history of espionage success.
Sounds pretty serious for the mastermind behind Borat. And it is – especially considering the miniseries isn’t a work of fiction, but a representation of the real-life Eli Cohen.
Before his recruitment to the Mossad, Eli Cohen, of Syrian Jewish heritage, emigrated to Israel in the 1950s. His ethnic background, work experience, and fluency in Arabic made him a walking target for Israel’s impressive intelligence agency.
Eli went on to become one of the most well-known names in the country’s history for what he achieved over several years posing as a Syrian businessman in the rival country.
Baron Cohen didn’t impress with his portrayal of Eli; he nailed it. Perfecting the role of a renowned Israeli spy who took down the Syrian government in the 1960s would be a serious achievement for any actor. But Baron Cohen unlocked another level of versatility.
How he did it
Taking on the role of Eli didn’t come easy for the comedian, and he knew of the challenges when he accepted them. First on the list of preparation was a month in Morocco, where he studied the interactions and behaviors of rich Arab men.
He also had to undergo serious language training, as he needed to master Egyptian, Argentinian, and Syrian accents.
“I prefer to see the world, once I’m in character, completely through that character’s eyes. So whether it’s a gay Austrian fashionista, or a conspiracy theorist from Tennessee, or an Israeli spy who’s an accountant in 1961…once I’m in the performance, I have this feeling of being locked in.”
– Sacha Baron Cohen, Vanity Fair
The preposterously magnificent personas that Sacha Baron Cohen has gifted to the entertainment industry remain, with an occasional Borat appearance from time to time. But Baron Cohen’s breathtaking portrayal of Eli Cohen, revealed talents of his that weren’t shown in his previous films and roles.
If you haven’t seen him outside of his bikini-wearing, politically-charged trickster roles, it’s a must.
Although, both sides of him a greatly appreciated.