Meg Kinnard-Associated Press
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) – Two fraternity members from a South Carolina university are suing over their appearance in the hit movie “Borat,” saying they were duped into making racist and sexist remarks.
The legal action filed Thursday on their behalf claims they were tricked into appearing in the spoof documentary “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.”
The young men “engaged in behavior that they otherwise would not have engaged in,” the lawsuit said.
“Borat” follows the adventures of comedian Sacha Baron Cohen’s Kazakh journalist character in a blend of fiction and improvised comic encounters as he travels across the United States and mocks Americans.
The plaintiffs were not named in the lawsuit “to protect themselves from any additional and unnecessary embarrassment.” They were identified in the movie as fraternity members from a South Carolina university, and appeared drunk as they made insulting comments about women and minorities to Cohen’s character.
The lawsuit claims that in October 2005, a production crew took the students to a bar to drink and “loosen up” before participating in what they were told would be a documentary to be shown outside of the United States.
“They were induced to agree to participate and were told the name of the fraternity and the name of their school wouldn’t be used,” said the plaintiffs’ attorney, Olivier Taillieu. “They were put into an RV and were made to believe they were picking up Borat the hitchhiker.”
After a bout of heavy drinking, the plaintiffs signed a release form they were told “had something to do with liability issues with being in the RV,” Taillieu said.
The film “made plaintiffs the object of ridicule, humiliation, mental anguish and emotional and physical distress, loss of reputation, goodwill and standing in the community,” the lawsuit said.
It names 20th Century Fox, a unit of News Corp., and three production companies as defendants.
Studio spokesman Gregg Brilliant said the lawsuit “has no merit.”
The plaintiffs were seeking an injunction to stop the studio from displaying their image and likeness, along with unspecified monetary damages.
“Borat” debuted as the top movie last weekend with $26.5 million.
Todd Bailey, president of the University of South Carolina chapter of Chi Psi, told The (Columbia) State newspaper that one of the two plaintiffs was a member of Chi Psi, while the other had left the university.
A woman who identified herself Friday as the house mother for the South Carolina Chi Psi chapter referred all comment on the lawsuit to the fraternity’s national headquarters in Hendersonville, Tenn.
In a statement, Brad Beskin, national director of operations for Chi Psi, said the fraternity “condemned” the statements made by the students in the film.