Borat vs. USC (no, not that one)

http://blogging.la/archives/images/2006/11/borat_eifel-thumb.jpgAfter seeing the Borat movie, I would guess that most of the $17 million budget for this nearly dogma-style film must have gone into legal insurance. If that was the case, this may have been money well spent, as star Sacha Baron Cohen was threatened with legal action by the government of Kazakhstan even before the film opened, another by a group of German gypsies, and yet another possible lawsuit by a man purporting to be “the real Borat”, among other pending cases.

Closer to home, yesterday two college students who appear in the film filed suit against the producers of “Borat” at the Santa Monica Courthouse.

Both men, and the fraternity they belonged to, as well as the college they attend, are unidentified in the court docs. The John Does claim that before filing they were “assured the film would not be shown in the U.S. and their identities would not be revealed.”

They were both selected to appear in the movie and, according to the suit, taken “to a drinking establishment ‘to loosen up’ and provided alcoholic beverages.” They claim they signed the movie releases after “heavy drinking.”

The film features a scene where Borat hitches a ride with three drunken USC students

…of the University of South Carolina.

While they aren’t made to look any dumber than your regular drunk frat guy, the plaintiffs blame the producers for getting them drunk and causing them “humiliation, mental anguish, and emotional and physical distress, loss of reputation, goodwill and standing in the community.”

I can’t help but think that these are the same kinds of guys who delight in watching “Girls Gone Wild” videos… but what place does conjecture have in a blog?

For our armchair lawyers out there, I ask for you to take a look and see not only if this suit has merit, but if it should be handled in a Los Angeles courthouse. While the damages were allegedly inflicted by the producers/defendants inflicted in South Carolina, the paperwork argues “this court has personal jurisdiction over all DEFENDANTS because at all times mentioned herein DEFENDANTS are located in the County of Los Angeles, State of California” (emphasis mine)…. but “within” only refers to events that happened out of state…

Regardless, the suit is a fun little read… how often do you see a criminal complaint begin by arguing, “Sacha Baron Cohen is a prankster”?

(source: “Borat Lawsuit — High Five!!!” at TMZ.com)

8 Replies to “Borat vs. USC (no, not that one)”

  1. I don’t see what they’re complaining about, except that they’d like some money.
    If I know Gamecock Country like I think I do (having spent 16 of my first 30 years in the Palmetto State), those guys’ “mental anguish” consists of them getting laid about 8000% more than they were last year.

  2. Speaking of drunk USC frat boys, sometimes kids at the University of Southern California like to wear the officially licensed University of South Carolina Gamecocks hats that say … USC Cocks. Ironic that when this happens, the Cock is covering the Trojan.

  3. Smells of a publicity stunt to me. 1 week after debut, lawsuit spurs further news right before the weekend and major theater expansion.

    Any release would spell everything out, very common today with all the “reality” material produced.

  4. There was a thread over at Ask Metafilter about this a little while ago. The poster is from South Carolina. Seems like it might not be a publicity stunt to me.

    I don’t know that it belongs in an L.A. courthouse if the activities occurred elsewhere, though.

  5. As a USC student, I have to say that those guys were wonderful representatives of the USC frat boy – racist- misogynistist culture that I live in. Those guys weren’t coerced into anything- they acted as they always do. like douchebags.

  6. Regarding the jurisdiction question, having seen the movie, it looked more like the events were in the Arizona desert on I-10 somewhere, but whatever. If the plaintiffs have chosen LA Superior Court, that is their right. The court just has to show personal jurisdiction over the DEFENDANTS, and since one presumes Cohen et al. worked on the production of the movie in LA, the court could claim minimal contacts and thus personal jurisdiction over the defendants. If anything, the defendants should be happy with the jurisdiction, since it is in a jurisdiction familiar with such aspects of the law, as opposed to South Carolina where there might be bias against them.

    And yes, I am a first year law student; does it show?

  7. I believe this is a publicity stunt. First of all if you watch the scene, all the different camera angles give it away. It was obviously done in multiple takes. I’m a film editor, I can tell these things. Actually every scene in the movie looks to be set up to me, based on the way it was shot.

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