The film features a scene in which Giuliani goes to the hotel bedroom with Maria Bakalova after an interview, appearing to expect sexual relations. Giuliani has denied that’s what he was doing.
“He claimed we were trying to extort him at the time, which we didn’t ask for anything,” Levinson said at a Producers Guild of America panel on Saturday. “He called all of his New York City cops and said extortion, which was a federal crime. Very smart to bring that up.”
Levinson said the hotel locked the Borat crew out of the suite where they had filmed the Giuliani scene. Fortunately, they had already transferred the footage out of the room.
“That’s always out first,” Levinson said. “We would hide tapes in our pants. There’s always ways to make sure we got out the data.”
However, the crew were unable to move the equipment out of the hotel room. They had more scenes to shoot the day after Giuliani.
“We actually had to rent new equipment,” Levinson said. “It was a really stressful time that evening because the hotel wouldn’t let us take anything out of the rooms.”
Levinson said she spent 19 hours in jail during the filming of the original Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazahkstan. She wanted to spare any of her crew members the same experience should Giuliani succeed.
“We ended up confabbing with our lawyers,” Levinson said. “I called the production team and said, ‘Let’s get everyone to New Jersey tonight.’ It was 11 o’clock at night. I didn’t want a repeat of what happened to me on the first movie happening to the entire crew.”
Bakalova is now Oscar-nominated for her portrayal of Borat (Sacha Baron Cohen)’s daughter. Bakalova was 23 when she filmed the interview with Giuliani, but her character was only 15.