Bruno: Real-Life Scandals in Milan and Berlin

In Brüno, Baron Cohen introduces moviegoers to the next character from his award-winning series, a gay fashionista who is the host of the top-rated late night fashion show in any German-speaking country–apart from Germany.  When Sacha Baron Cohen and his writers imagined setting up Brüno as a reporter at a European fashion week where he would meet his Waterloo, they explored the various events that he could attend.  Not wanting to hedge their bets on one location, the filmmakers went to New York City, Paris and Milan and secured credentials for multiple seasons of those cities’ respective fashion weeks.


The team made it to Milan Fashion Week in late September 2008.  They had imagined a gag in which Baron Cohen as Brüno would, dressed in a suit made entirely out of Velcro, exit a car outside a fashion week arena and sneak his way onto the runway, while director Charles and the camera crew would capture it all.  Early attempts to get into other shows failed when security recognized and banned all the production’s key players.  After calling the police, they and threw Brüno out, accusing them of stealing clothing.


Man on the Run


Brüno had been blackballed from Milan Fashion Week.  The Italian Chamber of Fashion issued a press release to designers and warned them of the possibility Baron Cohen would try to crash their events; the chamber further advised access be denied to Brüno’s production company.  With an image out on TV stations and across the Internet, Baron Cohen became a man on the run.  The Milan police declared he would be arrested on sight–everyone was looking to take down the talk-show host.


But the team was not accustomed to throwing in the towel.  Their solution?  Baron Cohen insisted they change everyone’s appearance and create an entirely new crew.  Charles shaved his beard and modified his hairstyle; producer Mazer cut his hair, as did other members of the Milan camera crew.  All involved in the final stunt changed their outfits.

With haute couture scarves and funky glasses, they became new fashionistas, to fit in with the others.  This would be the team’s last chance to get the Velcro scene that the writers had carefully constructed.  Standing between them and the stunt? Extra police and tighter security were brought in to comb the area for Brüno. 

Seizing an opportunity 30 minutes before designer Agatha Ruiz De La Prada’s fashion show began, Baron Cohen knew what he had to do.  The team secured him the proper credentials, and he walked in, not as the host of Funkyzeit Mit Brüno, but in the guise of an Italian photographer in a fabulous new outfit.  Accompanied by his hair and makeup artist and co-writer Hines, he found a hidden nook backstage and transformed into Brüno. 


Meanwhile, inches away, models and security walked by him in disguise.  The performer knew that if he were discovered that the team’s last, best chance of locking this critical scene would be over.  Shortly after the show began, he seized his chance.  Bursting out of his hiding place and onto the backstage, Baron Cohen sprinted past stunned models and lunged by waiting security guards. 


The producers were euphoric when Baron Cohen (as Brüno in a Velcro suit covered with clothing) fell onto the runway.  The crowd went wild in outrage while the cameras rolled.  Just as the team caught the footage they needed, security shut the lights off and dragged Baron Cohen off the stage.  Police cuffed the actor and hauled him to jail while his fellow crewmembers chased him down.  Though he claimed that he’d made an honest mistake—he’d simply put on a Velcro suit and walked in—Baron Cohen was strip searched and questioned by seven police officers. 


Undaunted, the team moved on to their next adventure.  It wasn’t days later when Baron Cohen threw out the question: “Can we go to Paris next week for Fashion Week?”  The other producers’ weary response: “Fine. We’re going to Paris!”  They shot for two days in October and landed prime seating at such coveted events as Stella McCartney’s line unveiling and Jean-Charles de Castelbajac’s show.  Brüno was clad in another outrageous outfit at the latter and, of course, making comments as the cameras rolled.

Bruno in Berlin

Though the sequence wasn’t used in the final cut of the film, the production shot a scene at a Berlin nightclub where Brüno gave his farewell address to the fashion world.  In the middle of an all-night rave, Brüno snuck into the deejay booth, killed the music and proceeded to deliver a 10-minute speech to the bewildered patrons.  But the ravers did not take well to their music getting cut and began taunting the strange man giving the unsolicited lecture.  Bottles and cups of beer began pouring down on Brüno.  As the nightclub’s security muscled Baron Cohen from the club, the drunken ravers began lunging after him.  During the melee, an assailant hit the performer in the neck while others tore at his clothing.