8 Decades of The Hollywood Reporter
The most glamorous and memorable moments from a storied history.
More than a decade before he was The Dictator, Sacha Baron Cohen was Ali G, a white rapper who wears sunglasses and gold chains and overidentifies with hip-hop and Jamaican culture. The character first appeared in 1998 in the U.K. on Channel 4's The 11 O'Clock Show. That led to Da Ali G Show, which would air on HBO in 2003 and 2004. Ali G specialized in interviewing unsuspecting guests whom The Hollywood Reporter described as "sober Establishment figures who didn't realize they were having fun poked at them," including Newt Gingrich and former U.N. Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, whom he asked, "Is Disneyland part of the U.N.?" (BBG said no.) His shtick inspired a cultlike devotion that led to the 2002 feature Ali G Indahouse, with cameos from supermodel Naomi Campbell and others. "He pushes the envelope -- you have to be careful when you see him in character," Campbell says. "I wasn't quite sure why he wanted me for the cameo. When I was on the set with a whip and massage oil, I thought, 'Oh my God.' " Adds Mark Mylod, the director of the U.K. comedy that would gross $26 million worldwide, "On the surface, the unique humor can appear juvenile, but it has an intellectual backbone and a political comment." Five years later, Cohen, 40, announced that he was retiring Ali G (and Borat, the subject of an eponymous comedy that grossed more than $260 million worldwide) but noted it wasn't easy because "it's like saying goodbye to a loved one."