Regina King, Sacha Baron Cohen Faced Covid-19 Exposure to Complete ‘One Night In Miami’ and ‘Borat’ – Producers Guild Panel

Regina King
Courtesy/Diana Ragland

Producers of One Night in Miami, Promising Young Woman, and Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm spoke about how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted their films at a panel staged by the Producers Guild.

Miami producer Jess Wu Calder, Woman producer Ashley Fox and Borat producer Monica Levinson participated in a Producers Guild of America panel for Darryl F. Zanuck Award nominees.

Calder said director Regina King had three more scenes to film for One Night in Miami when production lockdowns began in March 2020. They were able to resume production in July under much scrutiny of the industry guilds, Calder said.

As one of the first productions to resume under industry Covid-19 safety protocols, One Night in Miami faced a potential problem when King’s Covid-19 test returned with inconclusive results.

“Our entire cast and crew was waiting in the parking lot as we tried to test her again,” Calder said.

King was ultimately cleared to film the three scenes. However, Calder said she was prepared to make do, should her tests continue to be inconclusive.

“The entire time, she was like, ‘Even if it comes back inconclusive again, we can Facetime. This movie is too important. We’ll figure it out.’” Calder said.

Borat was still filming in 2020. Levinson said that even though the film shoots in documentary style, Sacha Baron Cohen has an outline of the scenes he wants to perform. The filmmakers find real people who are likely to play the role against his Borat character.

When the pandemic hit, Cohen came up with new scenes to reflect real-life events.

“Everything we saw after Covid-19 was a whole new way of getting to the story points that we needed to hit,” Levinson. “The brilliant idea came that he’s going to be in lockdown. Whose biggest nightmare would be to isolate and quarantine with Borat?”

Cohen remained in character as Borat, living in a house with strangers he met during production. Covid-19 impacted Borat again when they filmed scenes of Borat in his home country of Kazakhstan, with Romania doubling for Kazakhstan.

“Sacha had to be sent out, and our DPs had to be taken out of Romania,” Levinson said. “We had to finish it on a green screen because he was exposed to Covid-19 there.”

Promising Young Woman had an April 2020 release date after its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. When movie theaters closed, Focus Features delayed the film until Christmas Day.

Emerald Fennell’s film was intended to be a water cooler conversation starter. Carey Mulligan plays a woman who poses as a passed-out drunk in bars. When men take her home and try to take advantage of her, she “wakes up” and lets them know she’s sober.

Although Promising Young Woman opened in select theaters Christmas Day, its main airing shifted to VOD and home video. Producer Ashley Fox said the Sundance premiere was one of the only times the filmmakers got to see an audience react to Fennell’s film.

“There was that moment where Carey Mulligan sits up and asks Adam Brody what he’s doing,” Fox said. “The whole audience leaned in. It was so tense, and we cut to the coffee shop and the Charli XCX music.”

Fox said the audience reaction confirmed Fennell’s tonal shifts work. Promising Young Woman is a dark comedy, but deals with issues of consent and a college rape that was swept under the rug by the perpetrators and administration.

“All those elements together, people are laughing and feeling permission to laugh,” Fox said. “We could feel it in the energy in the audience. The way people have been experiencing the movie has been more at home.”

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