The Provocative Baron Cohen Clan

By | Oct 07, 2011
2010 July-August, Culture
Baron Cohen

His new family may be one reason that Sacha has been moving away from his triumphant trio of faux journalists. In his determination to take his characters into extreme real-life situations, he has had close calls. In Bruno, the rowdy spectators at a “cage fight” became enraged when Sacha, portraying Bruno, passionately kisses another man. Sacha’s safety was compromised when angry audience members began throwing chairs and other objects at him and looked ready to lynch him. “He is risking his life making these movies,” Erran says. “That’s obviously a worry for any member of his family. He’s got a kid now. Some of those scenes in Bruno are incredibly powerful partly because it’s so dangerous to do it,” says Erran.

Just as fame caught up with Sacha in Britain, making it impossible for him to pose as an unknown journalist with celebrities, it has caught up with him in the United States. He has announced that he will be shifting to scripted movies and is currently in production with Martin Scorcese’s 3-D film set in 1930’s Paris, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, to be released in December 2011. He is also starring in a movie that his agent describes as an “untitled goat herder film” in which he is said to play both a goat herder and a deposed foreign dictator who gets lost in the United States.

The United States is also where the real Sacha has made his home for now. On the other side of the ocean, Erran remains in north London where the brothers grew up. He is raising his family there and, like Sacha, tries to maintain the traditions of the generations before him. “Friday nights are still an important family event,” Erran says, noting that he sends his children to Jewish day school.

At the same time he hopes to improve on a few traditions from his childhood, such as boring Hanukkah songs. In 2008, Erran released Songs in the Key of Hanukkah, in which the old stand-by “Dreidel, dreidel, I made it out of clay” acquires a Balkan gypsy hip hop beat. In the album’s music video, Erran plays one of two Hasidic Jews who gamble pound-notes in a dreidel game, spray-paint Hebrew graffiti and break into joyful dances. The dreidel game is played on a rooftop in east London near the neighborhoods where immigrant Jews once lived. Erran seems no more concerned about playing down his Judaism than his great-grandfather Chaim, who made sure his new countrymen would know he was a Cohen. Says Erran: “London is a good place to be a Jew.”


Sarah Glazer is a London-based journalist. Her articles have appeared in The New York Times and The Washington Post. She is a contributing writer for CQ Researcher and CQ Global Researcher.

4 thoughts on “The Provocative Baron Cohen Clan

  1. susan williams says:

    Clearly, I have come late to your article. I knew Judith and Vivian Baron Cohen for a brief time in Oxford in the early 2000s, the year Billy Bob Thornton’s “Slingblade” was shown at a Oxford cinema. I was wondering about them the other day and googled Vivian’s name and came across your article, which I have very much enjoyed reading. However, I am very sorry to learn that Judith died in 2008, but I am glad to know this because she will be more firmly set in my memory.
    Judith and Vivian were lovely hosts, and I most especially appreciated Vivian’s showing me the most understated plaque to the memory of Robert of Reading, who, after his conversion to Judaism, called himself Haggai of Oxford and was murdered for his faith. The time Vivian gave me has sparked my continuing interest in the Jewish history of Oxford, and I am a Roman Catholic. Indeed, since knowing of Haggai of Oxford and coming across several instances myself of antisemitism among the dreaming spires, whenever I think of Oxford I think of its continuing current of the antisemitism Judith found so worrying.
    I will always feel blessed that Judith spoke to me after that particular showing of “Slingblade” and began an acquaintance I wish could have been an enduring friendship. She and Vivian were wonderful to me.

  2. Graham says:

    I spoke with Vivian today. What a lovely man. He told me all about his new book – Joe and his magic snout.

    I will be purchasing this book from Amazon as all proceeds will go to cancer research.

  3. Kathleen says:

    Very good in depth story – even though I had trouble navigating it. I worked for Vivian, in his menswear store for many years. Very charming and generous man. I was young at the time and was mainly interested in dancing and of course boys. He, Vivian, did talk about his family -very proud of his wife of course and the children. Thank you for your work on this article. Kathleen

  4. Beth says:

    I just came across here when I’m Googling Mr. V Cohen . I also worked in his suit shop in Piccadilly years ago. I really have some fond memories while I’m working there and we even keep in touch afterwards but unfortunately…. I don’t know how he is now but yes! He’s a lovely man and so many stories that I’ve learned from him at that time…

    I just wish him well.

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