A closer look at Bulgarian actor Maria Bakalova, the breakout star of the new Borat film, and the woman behind *that* scene with Rudy Giuliani.
Sacha Baron Cohen may be synonymous with Borat but another name is fast making waves in his latest film about Kazakhstan’s most notorious anti-hero.
Maria Bakalova is the Bulgarian actor and Hollywood newcomer whose impersonation skills caught the eye of Baron Cohen in auditions earlier this year.
Bakalova plays Borat’s long-lost daughter Tutar in the Amazon Prime comedy released last week, in a brave and bitingly satirical performance that’s already been tipped for Oscars glory. Here’s everything you need to know about one of the comedy world’s most exciting new talents:
Maria Bakalova is a Hollywood newcomer
Bakalova trained at the National Academy for Theatre and Film Arts in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia before appearing in a number of Bulgarian TV comedies.
She caught Baron Cohen’s attention by responding to an open cast call for Borat Subsequent Moviefilm before being selected over hundreds of hopefuls to play Tutar at an audition in London this February.
Bakalova travelled to the States for the first time in order to play Borat’s daughter and sidekick in a string of audacious stunts.
Maria Bakalova plays the role of Borat’s “Prodigious Bribe”
The full name of the new Borat film is (wait for it) Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.
Bakalova is that titular “Prodigious Bribe”: Borat’s forgotten 15-year-old daughter, Tutar, who smuggles herself into the States in a crate and is then used by her father to lure various members of Donald Trump’s inner circle, including vice-president Mike Pence and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Naturally, this feat involves a string of jaw-dropping pranks, including Tutar being shown how to attract men by “acting weaker than you are” by a sugar-daddy expert/Instagram influencer; and lessons in plastic surgery.
Maria Bakalova helps to pull off some incredible spoofs
Bakalova and Baron Cohen form a convincing double act for many of the spoofs in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: but some of the comedy’s more shocking moments are pulled off by Bakalova alone.
This includes a skit in which the actor manages to gatecrash a Republican women’s association and then regale its gobsmacked members on the pleasures of masturbation.
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Another scene that has made headlines around the world sees Bakalova pose as a naive and flirtatious young reporter in an interview with vocal Trump ally Rudy Giuliani: the encounter is cut off as Giuliani is seen fumbling in his trousers (he later claimed he was tucking in his shirt).
Trump – somewhat ironically – branded Sacha Cohen “a creep” for the hoax, and the comedian responded in kind: but it was Bakalova who was really instrumental in making it happen (she also noted that, despite the risks, she felt safe during the scene with Cohen and the production team in her corner).
Maria Bakalova’s role exposes misogyny for what it is
Time and again, Bakalova’s alter ego Tutar lays bare the extent of modern-day misogyny. Anyone who believes sexism is dead will have cause to rethink after seeing men happy to sell Borat a cage to keep his daughter in, or breast surgery to attract rich men.
While ludicrous in their extremes, the most shocking moments of Borat Subsequent Moviefilm are laced with darker undertones about the oppression and exploitation of women.
Take the debutante ball in which Tutar appalls guests by dancing with her bloodied period pants on full display: clearly, the society circles of Georgia can celebrate a certain kind of “acceptable” womanhood; but (like many places) they aren’t ready for the realities of menstruation.
Another more moving scene comes when Jeanise Jones, the woman Borat hires to look after Tutar, tries to convince her that she is beautiful just the way she is, without having to please any men. She also tells Tutar that – unlike the book the teenager has read – it is absolutely fine to touch her vagina.
Each of these moments combines humour with a powerful dialogue about how women are expected to appear and behave; even now, in 21st century America.
Maria Bakalova’s performance in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm is winning over the critics
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm has only been out less than a week, and already Bakalova has won critical acclaim. “Matching Sacha Baron Cohen for fearlessness and comic timing, she is, without question, the find of the year,” the Guardian’s Jordan Hoffman says, while the LA Times’ Justin Chang hails her performance as “terrific”.
Members of the public are equally enamoured, if the feedback on Twitter is anything to go by:
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm is out now on Amazon Prime.
Images: Amazon Prime
Anna Brech is a freelance journalist and former editor for stylist.co.uk. Her six-year stint on the site saw her develop a vociferous appetite for live Analytics, feminist opinion and good-quality gin in roughly equal measure. She enjoys writing across all areas of women’s lifestyle content but has a soft spot for books and escapist travel content.