Sacha Baron Cohen killed it tonight at the U.S premiere in Westwood of his latest boundaries-pushing comedy The Brothers Grimsby, with an introduction that mocked and criticized GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump ahead of the film that has a subplot which, in essence, comedically burns the candidate in effigy.
Wearing a Trump campaign baseball cap emblazoned with his slogan “Make America Great Again,” Cohen laid into The Donald both seriously and for laughs in his intro and eventually straight up called him “a demagogue”. That line in particular was a huge hit with the audience, according to Deadline’s own Pete Hammond. The film was too, says Pete, especially the aforementioned subplot in which Trump – and a fictionalized Daniel Radcliffe of all people – is submitted to abject humiliation and eventually possible death in a very plot-relevant turn of events we won’t spoil here. Suffice to say, the bit was a smash with attendees.
As for the reports earlier today that Columbia was so nervous about the Trump stuff that they were trying to convince Cohen to remove it, they’re absolutely false. The Brothers Grimsby has been a hit internationally thanks in part, as Pete was told by one exec close to the film, to those Trump jokes and the studio expects the same stateside. Cohen had no way of knowing what direction the 2016 presidential election would take but gambling on making Trump the butt of some cruel humor turned out to be a stroke of brilliance. The film went into production in 2014 and it has hit theaters just in time to see the Republican Party having what amounts to a panic attack over the prospect of Trump sealing the nomination. (See our live blog of tonight’s Republican debate for evidence of that.) All the more impressive because, as the exec told Pete, “three months ago it wouldn’t have been anything”.
Of course, neither Radcliffe nor Trump were actually in the The Brothers Grimsby. The film uses a combination of existing photographs and footage, and digital trickery to insert them into the story. As such, Columbia slapped a couple of disclaimers into the film’s closing credits that Cohen used to wring out one more big laugh. “Daniel Radcliffe was not involved in this movie and does not have HIV/AIDS” said the first one. “Donald Trump was not involved in this movie, but” said the second, followed by a long pause before resuming “…and does not have HIV/AIDS.” And yes, the implication that Cohen really wants to say the opposite is true about Trump got huge laughs.
Pete’s review of The Brothers Grimsby will appear on Deadline on Monday.