Sacha Baron Cohen Grimsby


Sacha Baron Cohen Grimsby

Sacha Baron Cohen Grimsby

Cast: Sacha Baron Cohen, Mark Strong, Rebel Wilson, Penélope Cruz, Isla Fisher
Director: Louis Leterrier

Synopsis: Oscar® nominee and Golden Globe winner Sacha Baron Cohen – creator of Borat, Bruno and Ali G – is back with a new character: Nobby Butcher, a terminally unemployed but fun-loving football fan who is forced to save the world.

Nobby has everything a man from Grimsby could want – 9 children and a girlfriend he loves more than anything (Rebel Wilson). There's only one thing missing in his life: his little brother, Sebastian (Mark Strong), from whom he was separated as a child. After 28 years of searching, Nobby has finally tracked his brother down in London - unaware that he's an MI6 assassin. After a disastrous reunion in which Nobby accidentally ruins Sebastian's life and puts them both on the run, they uncover a plot to destroy the world. In order to save humanity, and his brother, Nobby has to embark on a global mission and undertake a complete transformation from lovable idiot to sophisticated secret agent.

 

Sacha Baron Cohen has visited the Jimmy Kimmel show to debut a hilarious, never before seen film clip from the film, watch here: YouTube

Grimsby
Release Date: March 3rd, 2016


About The Production

Sacha Baron Cohen is best known for creating wildly original, hilarious characters and putting them in the most unlikely circumstances – from a faux-streetwise hip-hop personality-turned-talk show host, to a Kazakhstani journalist on his first visit to America, to an Austrian fashion icon looking for fame, he has created characters that are impossible to forget. In his new film, Grimsby, Sacha Baron Cohen once again invents another wholly original creation – the story of an idiot (Sacha Baron Cohen) and his brother, the spy (Mark Strong), with whom he reconnects after 28 years.

Just as in his previous films, Sacha Baron Cohen puts the emphasis on a commitment to making the character seem as real as possible. 'When writing for Ali G and Borat and Bruno, everything had to be believable. Ali G or Borat could never do anything out of character," he says. 'So when it comes to writing our movies, everything comes from that kind of basis, that pure idea – what would the character do? Sometimes we think of really funny jokes, but they wouldn't come out of that character's mouth. It has to be authentic and believable, so we create this real world around the characters for the comedy to exist in."

For Grimsby, that meant creating a world of spies as real, as believable, and as serious as any action franchise. In short, it couldn't be a spy spoof. 'We wanted to create a real action movie, with the stakes, the great stunts, and the jeopardy of a real action movie – and then throw an idiotic character in the middle of that, and see how that character changes the course of the movie," says Sacha Baron Cohen.


With that in mind, the filmmakers approached Louis Leterrier – one of the most in-demand action-film directors (Now You See Me, The Transporter), to take the helm. Louis Leterrier says that when he was approached to direct Grimsby, he was gratified by the chance to work with a star he had long admired. 'I remember, at the beginning of the DVD era, people were passing around DVD box sets of -The Ali G Show' – -Have you seen this stuff?'" Louis Leterrier recalls. 'I remember going to see Borat on the day it came out – the 11 am show, first show, and crying laughing, and going to see it again that weekend with friends. That's what I love about Sacha Baron Cohen's movies – you want to be the first one to see it, and then you want to bring your friends to see their reaction. I was quite starstruck with Sacha Baron Cohen, because he was one of the guys that I truly admired."

'When Sacha Baron Cohen makes a movie, there's not a quota of outrageousness, but there is a quota of comedy," says Todd Schulman, Sacha Baron Cohen's producing partner. 'It is a credit to Sacha Baron Cohen's ambition and creates a huge challenge for everyone involved, because he is always pushing to make the scene funnier, to take it further, to make it bigger and better."

In Grimsby, Sacha Baron Cohen's original character is Nobby. At first, it seems that Nobby is a lowlife, but maybe he's got it figured out after all. 'He's a welfare cheat – he has nine kids and he's cheating the system to get as many benefits as he can," says Sacha Baron Cohen. 'But the thing is, he loves his kids and his girlfriend. She's a curvaceous beauty, Rebel Wilson, who he's crazily in love with. He's a great dad. He'll do anything for his family. His whole life is about family – and the one missing hole is his brother."

Separated 28 years ago when Sebastian was sent to a foster home, one would think that Sebastian – who has grown up to become a spy – would have it all. But when he reconnects with his brother, Sebastian finds out just what he was missing.

Playing Sebastian is Mark Strong, fresh off of his success as Merlin in Kingsman: The Secret Service. 'We cast someone who we thought could actually be cast in a real action franchise, and Mark Strong is that guy," says Sacha Baron Cohen. 'He's incredibly tough. He does all his own stunts. He's a brilliant fighter. And he's totally real – you completely believe him."

'I knew Sacha Baron Cohen's past films, but I didn't know what it would entail, to be honest," says Mark Strong, about joining a Sacha Baron Cohen comedy. 'The process is quite extraordinary. Sacha Baron Cohen is on a mission to poke fun at everything he can and create disorder wherever possible. But within that anarchy, the process of finding the laughs is actually quite scientific. There's a very structured narrative and the writers are specific about the lines they write and the words you speak. If I missed a word here or there, it's important, because the word is in there so that the comedy flows and works in that way."

'Mark Strong is the perfect straight man," says Lewis Leterrier. 'He's smart, fun, and intelligent; he gets the joke but doesn't lean into it. So often, the audience's reaction is the straight man's reaction – so Mark Strong's reaction to Sacha Baron Cohen is where the comedy lies. We couldn't have asked for a better actor than Mark Strong, and he and Sacha Baron Cohen behaved as brothers."

Lewis Leterrier is best known as the director of the hit films The Transporter and Now You See Me, and Todd Schulman says that the director's experience combined with his natural personality made him the perfect choice to helm the film. 'For this movie to work, you have to believe in the action," Todd Schulman explains. 'It has to feel like you took an action movie and dropped an idiot into the middle of it. We knew Louis Leterrier was incredibly talented in terms of shooting action for huge movies, but everyone was really impressed by his sense of humor. He has a really light touch, which was perfect for the movie."

Still, Lewis Leterrier says that shooting comedy was unlike any other kind of filmmaking he's ever done before. 'I had longer takes, 45 minute takes. I was putting several cameras on a scene, doing crossing overs. It was a new kind of filmmaking for me," Lewis Leterrier says. But that's what you have to do when Sacha Baron Cohen is performing. 'In this movie, he's like a stream of consciousness – he never stops. He has a surreal mind."

That surreal mind, as a co-writer of the screenplay, dreamed up quite a bit of punishment for the actors. 'One particular day, Sacha Baron Cohen fell on me and smashed a bottle over my head repeatedly," says Mark Strong. 'Then I was drowned in a car; I was trapped in a tiny, sleeping bag-sized costume; I had a day on the African plain in freezing cold winds; and I was subjected to three days in a small house with Nobby's entire family. It wasn't just Sebastian enduring these tasks – it was me."

'Whatever Sacha Baron Cohen asks of other actors, he'll do ten times worse. Sacha Baron Cohen will do anything to get a laugh," says Lewis Leterrier. Plus, Lewis Leterrier explains, he wasn't about to let the actors get all the fun – the director thought it was only fair that he himself endure whatever he was requiring of Sacha Baron Cohen and Mark Strong. 'When they were wet, I was wet. When they were cold, I was cold. When they were naked, I was naked. Sacha Baron Cohen was one of the writers of the movie, so he was prepared, but I didn't want Mark to feel abused. So, I was with him in there."

Casting The Film

With Sacha Baron Cohen in the lead role, and Mark Strong cast as his brother, the filmmakers were able to attract a varied cast of very funny co-stars.

'Watching Sacha Baron Cohen do comedy is like watching Michael Jordan shoot hoops," says Isla Fisher, who plays Jodie, Sebastian's love interest in the film. 'It is an education in how to be hilarious and I've learned so much. For the rest of us, though, we had to play it straight – Sacha Baron Cohen's character is so heightened that we needed the whole rest of the world to feel very real."

Isla Fisher trained at clown school, so the chance to work on Grimsby was a true homecoming. 'Once I'm inside a funny character, there are so many opportunities to tap into my inner idiot. It's the most fun I can have," she says.

Isla Fisher previously teamed with director Louis Leterrier on the hit film Now You See Me. 'It's great to see him branching out and doing comedy, because Louis has a fresh and exciting way of shooting things," she says. 'He keeps the camera continually moving – it has a mercurial, animal feel. He can create this spy world but still has a great sense of humor."

Of course, Isla Fisher is Sacha Baron Cohen's real-life wife, and she says that Nobby is one of her favourite of her husband's characters – for her own reasons. 'I'm really lucky with this character, because Sacha Baron Cohen wore a wig," she says. 'I had to sleep with someone with a handlebar moustache when he was Borat; I had a blonde Mohawked manorexic in my bed when he was Bruno. Nobby was my favourite of all his alter egos to bring home – despite the northern accent that he never shook off, at least he looked like himself."

Though Isla Fisher is Sacha Baron Cohen's real life wife, in the film, Nobby's girlfriend, Dawn is played by Rebel Wilson. 'The thing that everyone loves about Sacha Baron Cohen's comedy is that it really pushes the boundaries," says Rebel Wilson. 'I love edgy material – I'm known for doing some very edgy standup and sketch comedy – but this film really goes to the next level."

Coming onto Grimsby just two weeks after completing her work on Pitch Perfect 2, Wilson says that she went straight into 'research." 'Sacha Baron Cohen wanted Dawn to be an authentic Northern girl, so I went on a massive six-day research trip to the north of England," she says. 'I went to hair and nail salons – I even worked in a fish and chips shop in Blackpool for an afternoon. It was intense – and now I know everything about how to make fish and chips… well kind of!" After soaking up the atmosphere, Rebel Wilson worked with an accent coach on perfecting the Northern accent. 'Sacha Baron Cohen was on me – -You know, Rebel Wilson, it took me a month to get the accent. You have to work really hard if you're going to get it and I want it to be perfect.' I tried my hardest, and I hope my accent is authentic in the movie."

The story of Gabourey Sidibe joining the cast is a tale that could have been written by an old-school Hollywood publicist. At the exclusive Academy Awards® party thrown by Madonna and her manager, Guy Oseary, there were Gabourey Sidibe and Sacha Baron Cohen, one Oscar® nominee chatting up another (Gabourey Sidibe's nomination is for her performance in Precious; Sacha Baron Cohen's for writing the screenplay for Borat), about a role in an upcoming movie. 'He was telling me how funny he thought I was, and I didn't believe him," says Gabourey Sidibe. 'But he asked me if I could do an African accent, so I lied and said yes, and then he asked me who represents me, and I was there with my manager, so pointed her out and they talked. Two weeks later, my manager emails me – -remember that movie you talked to Sacha Baron Cohen about at the party?' Well, I guess he was serious and he really did think I was funny."

Penélope Cruz rounds out the lead cast as Rhonda George, the head of an international health organization. 'I was excited about being part of this movie because there's no one like Sacha Baron Cohen," says Penelope Cruz. 'It's fun to let go of your inhibitions."

Also joining the cast is Annabelle Wallis. 'I play Lina Smit – she's quite a naughty little minx of a character," she says. 'She's a baddie who is instructed to seduce Sebastian to get some information out of him – and it all goes terribly wrong for her in the end. But she's a fabulous, flashy part – very glamorous."

About The Stunts

The film opens with a no-holds-barred action sequence, with a sequence from the POV of Sebastian, Britain's top secret agent. For stunt coordinator Adam Kirley, these opening pages of the script seemed to be an exciting challenge – and then he kept reading. 'The first 30 or 40 pages read as an action movie," he says.

The film's director of photography was Oliver Wood, who bridges the worlds of action films (including The Bourne Supremacy and Ultimatum) and comedy (with many Adam McKay/Will Ferrell collaborations, from Talladega Nights to Anchorman 2). 'I wanted him to film the crazy car crashes of the Bourne movies, but crashed by Sacha Baron Cohen," says Lewis Leterrier.

For the film's explosive opening sequence, Lewis Leterrier and Oliver Wood teamed up with Chad Stahelski, who Leterrier says is 'a genius second unit director and stunt choreographer himself. I'd never met him before, but he came in full of ideas, full of energy, and came back with storyboards of the opening sequence, all POV with drones following them, planes, trains, automobiles, helicopters, motorcycle chases, foot chase, car chase, under a truck with the axles spinning in front of you."

So that was the first 30 or 40 pages…. 'And then we got to the elephant sequence," says Adam Kirley. 'It's still very real action – stunts you'd potentially do in a real, full-on action movie – but in a comedic environment. We had scenes in a confined space and they're getting flooded and they're having to sort of fight for their lives. It's just a different environment than other action movies."

Adam Kirley says that Lewis Leterrier's action skills merged perfectly with Sacha Baron Cohen Cohen's comedic sensibilities. 'Louis has done so many action movies over the years, so he brought that realism to the movie, with Sacha Baron Cohen and the writers bringing the comedy element. The most rewarding part of the project for me was to make the action seem real, but also to work in the comedy that Sacha Baron Cohen wanted."

Adam Kirley notes that it was difficult work – not only because some of the stunts were as tricky to pull off safely as any he's had in his career, but because approaching those stunts seriously could result in the film's tone being too serious. 'Louis took it all in stride, though," Adam Kirley continues. 'He did an amazing job with it, blending the action with the physical comedy."

For Adam Kirley, the filmmaking process was unlike any he's experienced before. For everyone's safety, stunt sequences have to be conceived, timed, and executed perfectly, so action films tend to be very planned, with everyone knowing exactly when and under what circumstances a stunt will be performed. On most comedies, however, things are looser. A director might keep shooting a scene for many minutes at a time, letting his actors find the funny. 'Everything evolves from day to day, even shot to shot, as they do alternative versions of scenes," he says. 'So we have to adapt as a stunt team as well, because many times, their changes will change our action – as sequences get tweaked, you have to change when they change."

Creating The Outrageous Effects
The work of the most respected special effects and behind-the-scenes technicians are on display in Grimsby. Steven Warner, who most recently oversaw special effects for Ridley Scott's The Martian, oversaw the physical effects; on many of these, he teamed with prosthetics supervisor Conor O'Sullivan, who is not only Ridley Scott's go-to prosthetics expert, but the prosthetics man whose prosthetics helped create Heath Ledger's Joker and Nicole Kidman's nose in The Hours.

Among those legendary works, they can now add the outrageous, ridiculous effects – as when the brothers find themselves taking refuge on a South African wildlife preserve – with nowhere to hide except an elephant's… most private area. And apparently, it's mating season.

Conor O'Sullivan designed and built the 'soft prop," which could be controlled by puppeteers, and raised and lowered by Warner's SFX team.

Conor O'Sullivan's team also created the look of the male elephant anatomy, while Warner's team handled the mechanics.

Meanwhile, Steven Warner's work began in the lab, creating the faux elephant ejaculate. 'Whatever we used, Sacha Baron Cohen and Mark Strong, as well as the crew, were going to have to be submerged in it for days. So it had to be safe – safe to be ingested, safe to get in your eyes and ears."

'We spoke to a number of zoos and experts in elephants, and we found out that the item that most resembles elephant sperm is actually McDonald's milkshake," says Sacha Baron Cohen. However, this turns out to be one area where reality had to suffer for art's sake – Steven Warner says that he ended up using a cosmetics-grade moisturiser. 'Everyone was very pleased, because their skin felt so soft," Steven Warner recalls.

That's just the beginning of the story – we'll spare you the details of the volume and pressure tests. In the end, the ridiculous, hilarious sequence required all the skill of the film industry's most respected technicians to make it a reality.

And that was just the beginning of Steven Warner's work. For the film's climax, Warner also had to figure out how Nobby would take fireworks to his rear end. 'We thought we were going to have to make a prosthetic arse, but Sacha Baron Cohen was quite adamant that he didn't want to wear a prosthetic," says Steven Warner. 'It was a challenge for us, how to attach a firework to an actor's backside, and having the firework look like it was about to launch, but without causing him any pain." Though a series of different rigs, trial and error, and two crew members who took most of the testing, Warner's team solved the problem.

About The Production, Design And Locations

In approaching his direction of Grimsby, Louis Leterrier's main focus was to keep pushing the extremes – pushing the comedy, pushing the locations, pushing the design, pushing the cinematography – to give the audience the most bang that they can expect. 'In France, they call me -Mr. Plus' because I push, push, push, until we get the best, the most extreme, the most dynamic version of a scene," says Louis Leterrier. 'Our poor camera operators – the whole movie is handheld or Steadicam, cranes and cable cameras. That's hard core camera movement. Combine that with Sacha Baron Cohen's comedy, where he can move anywhere he wants at any moment, and you're completely out of your comfort zone. There's no safety net. But I think that's why Sacha and I found each other appealing to work with – my approach to directing is the same as his approach to comedy."

Overall, production designer Kave Quinn says that the look of the film was largely about drawing contrasts between Nobby's world, in the working class town of Grimsby, and Sebastian's world of overly sleek, sterile spies, so that these two worlds could be united at the end of the film. 'When you're with the Grimsby people, everything is quite colorful, while Sebastian's posh world is beautiful but cold. My challenge was making it all feel real, but also getting the balance right between the two."

Quinn also worked closely with costume designer Paco Delgado to make sure the characters would pop against the sets. For example, 'Sebastian wears all black combat gear in the third world hotel room; I wanted the colors in there so he could stand out. Similarly, I knew Nobby would be wearing a white England shirt most of the film, so I tried to make the sets not too white – with color on his sets, he would stand out."

Grimsby was shot in two major locations – England and South Africa. 'Initially, the plan was to shoot maybe 10 or 15 days in South Africa – the elephant sequence, and that was it," says director Louis Leterrier. 'But our executive producer, Louise Rosner Meyer, was very smart – she knew that the end of the movie was set in Chile, and she started to look for locations that would work. By the time I visited with her – I'd never been to South Africa – going from location to location, by the end of the second day, we'd found every location in a long list. Cape Town is not a big city, but you can drive 10 or 20 minutes and it looks completely different. It has two oceans, you've got the hot wind from the African plains coming down in the summer, and the cold winds from Antarctica going up in the winter. It just makes a tremendous location – so much that we ended up shooting about half the movie there. They were very welcoming, and the government created a few bridges for us to come there – not to mention that the crews and talent pool are absolutely unbelievable."

In South Africa, on the Lourensford wine estate, the filmmakers built the luxurious safari lodge where Nobby is supposed to conduct a high-level meeting. 'It was a great location," says Louis Leterrier. 'And for our purposes, the sun was shining in the right position for the entire day. We got this amazing construction – in the mornings, I liked to walk up to it from our base camp and look at it – as the sun rose behind the mountains, it was absolutely beautiful."

'At first, we had planned to build a set in the UK for that scene," says Quinn. 'But then the thing is, if you look at all the very exclusive safari lodges, what's exclusive about them is that the environment is part of the location. We realised that we'd never fully achieve that as a set in the studio in the UK. So, when it came to pass that we were going to have more time in South Africa, we just decided that it would be good to try to find an incredible location to build that set, which we did."

However, as beautiful as the set was, there's only one thought that goes through an action film director's head when you give him a location like that: 'I thought, we have it, we might as well destroy it!" he laughs. 'And then, when we destroyed it, I thought, we should build a miniature and blow it up even more, just for fun."

The unit's special effects supervisor, Cordell McQueen, was responsible for pulling off many of the film's explosions. Shooting on the Lourensford wine estate meant that explosions had to be arranged with as little real-world destruction as possible. For McQueen, these sizzling explosions meant one thing: propane. 'In the movie, the lodge gets hit by a rocket-propelled grenade," says McQueen. 'We used propane and a lot of debris kickers, and we had two stunt guys jumping off as we detonated."

Other South Africa locations could double for Chile, which hosts a soccer world championship at the film's conclusion. For example, Cape Town is home to a stadium that could fit the bill. With the aid of digital technology, a few hundred real-life extras were made to look like 80,000 screaming fans.

When it came to the costumes, as the son of Catherine Leterrier, a famed, Oscar®-nominated film costume designer, Louis Leterrier was very invested in the look of the characters, as was Sacha Baron Cohen. 'Sacha Baron Cohen's looks are very defined – you can draw his characters," notes Louis Leterrier. 'Borat has the moustache and the fuzzy hair. Ali G has the goatee and the glasses. Bruno, the Mohawk. So for Nobby, we wanted a very clear look, and between Paco Delgado, our costume designer, and Katy Fray, who was our makeup and hair designer, we found his look."

Paco Delgado had previously worked with Sacha Baron Cohen on Les Misérables, in which Sacha Baron Cohen played Thénardier, the 'Master of the House." On Grimsby, Sacha Baron Cohen and Paco Delgado quickly came to two conclusions. 'The first is that the look had to be consistent through the whole movie, and the second is that it should be a football outfit," he says. 'For many people in the north of England, that's how they dress – they buy their clothes in sports shops. We decided that Nobby would have a bit of a beer belly; the silhouette would be a bit cartoonish, with the hairstyle and the sideburns."

Equal thought went into designing Mark Strong's costume. 'It's a simple suit and a jumper we've created, following the lines of his body. He's a very low-profile, upper middle class guy who doesn't want to get attention for many reasons."

In her role, Rebel Wilson also found a unique look. 'We pushed the look slightly, because she is a comic character," she says, 'but you still want it to be genuine and not push it too far. I tend to wear quite tight-fitting outfits, not the most flattering. And with the hair and makeup design, we did some subtle and not-so-subtle things; the hair extensions are deliberately longer and not quite the same color as my real hair, and the makeup just doesn't quite accentuate my full glamour."

Grimsby
Release Date: March 3rd, 2016

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