Note: This article contains spoilers about Sacha Baron Cohen’s upcoming movie, Bruno.
Presidential candidates will do almost anything for publicity. But Ron Paul’s appearance in Sacha Baron Cohen’s upcoming Bruno movie suggests he draws the line at making sex tapes with gay Austrian TV hosts.
In a five-minute scene, comedian Cohen tries—and fails—to seduce the Texas congressman and former Republican presidential candidate in a Washington hotel room. A spokeswoman for Paul confirmed the appearance but declined to discuss details, which were provided by two people who attended a test screening last week.
The film, slated for release in July, is the follow-up to 2006’s Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, about a Kazakh news reporter’s quest to find a wife. Bruno follows a similar arc: After the flamboyant TV host’s show in Austria gets canceled, he heads to the United States to try to resurrect his career.
The scene with Paul, filmed in early 2008, occurs about halfway through the movie, after Bruno gets the idea that you have to make a sex tape to become famous. (Stop reading here if you want to see the movie unspoiled.)
Cut to a nondescript hotel suite where Bruno sits across from Ron Paul. After a brief exchange of pleasantries, a light blows out on the set. Bruno apologizes for the technical difficulties and suggests that he and Paul wait in the other room while the crew fixes the light.
The other room, it turns out, is a bedroom. The lighting is low, and the film is now grainy—not unlike a sex tape—as it cuts to a hidden spy camera. There’s a spread of Champagne and strawberries and caviar on a table.
Bruno tells Paul to make himself comfortable. Paul sits down on the bed. Bruno turns on some music and starts dancing. Paul is visibly uneasy but doesn’t say anything at first. He picks up a newspaper and pretends to read it. “You can tell at each weird gay detail, he [chalks] it up to, This guy is European,” says one of the attendees.
Finally, Paul asks what’s going on. “Don’t worry about it, Dr. Paul,” says Bruno, who then unbuckles his belt and drops his pants. At that point, Paul snaps up and storms out of the room.
As Paul is walking away, you can hear him say, several times, something like, “This guy is a queer!” “The word queer comes out of his mouth three or four times,” says an attendee.
A spokeswoman for Paul confirmed that the episode took place but declined to provide details. “We don’t want it to distract from his message,” said press secretary Rachel Mills. “Now is the time when people need to be listening to him on economic issues.”
Mills, who was present at the taping, did elaborate on the “queer” line. “I heard him say ‘weird,’ ” she wrote in an e-mail. “In any case, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Queer as Folk … it’s not exactly a shocking term if that’s what he did say.”
Mills also noted that Cohen’s people were “very deceptive in their tactics.” At the time, she thought they were “legitimate,” but now confesses to some concern. “I’m familiar with his work, so you can imagine how I feel about it,” she said.
The rest of the movie is a mix of interviews and stunts targeting celebrities and conservatives of various stripes. At one point, Bruno enrolls in a homosexual reprogramming course with evangelical Christians and spends the whole time hitting on the trainers. He sits down with a leader of Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, who tells Bruno to leave after Bruno tells him “your King Osama” looks like a “dirty wizard.” During an interview with Paula Abdul, Bruno makes immigrant day laborers get down on their hands and knees and serve as furniture. And in the movie’s much-hyped set piece, he stages a cage fight in Arkansas where, to the audience’s surprise, he proceeds to make out passionately with another man.
Jesse Benton, senior vice president of Campaign for Liberty and former campaign spokesman for Paul, said Paul was not familiar with Cohen’s HBO program, Da Ali G Show. “If it’s not on hard-core financial news, he doesn’t follow it,” Benton said. But, he added, “It sounds like it’s going to be pretty funny.”