The untitled project -- penned by three of Curb Your Enthusiasm's writers -- will be a departure from Cohen's mockumentary films, featuring the actor in a fictional narrative described as Trading Places meets Coming to America with Cohen playing dual roles: a deposed dictator lost in the USA and a goat herder. I'm sure wacky hijinks will ensue.
Paramount won the war by offering the comedian a 20-20 deal, meaning Cohen gets $20 million up front and 20% of the gross -- and more if the film is a hit. This is big news in Hollywood, where studios have been dealing with the country's economic downturn by offering less for projects. Some see this deal as a return to the pre-recession status quo, while others think it's a sign of a new film industry -- one still willing to pay big bucks for projects, but only ones featuring proven commodities.
It's an interesting move. Cohen's career to date peaked with Borat, which found him playing a reporter from Kazakhstan wandering America and fooling the locals with his antics. That film made $261 million. The follow-up, Bruno, which swapped the reporter for a gay fashion show host, did considerably less business, taking in a mere $138 million.
The question then becomes whether or not the Sacha Baron Cohen hype is justified. While I've found everything Cohen does pretty clever and funny on at least some level, there's no denying that he's an acquired taste -- the closest thing we may have to a modern day Andy Kaufman. The comic's certainly achieved at least some degree of mainstream success (you don't have a film make $261 million without getting money from Middle America ... ), but can he repeat that kind of performance? The actor does seem committed to pushing himself, opting to make a narrative film as opposed to yet another documentary -- probably a necessity since almost everyone in this country recognizes him now -- but is it enough? Can he still retain his comic edge in a film with a strictly scripted narrative?
Is Sacha Baron Cohen a genuine talent, or another comedian who burned white hot for an instant before flaming out into obscurity forever? Share your thoughts in the comment section.