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Britweek Hollywood feature - Ash Baron-Cohen under the spotlight

by Andy Johnson. Published Wed 06 May 2009 08:18, last updated: 06/05/09
Ash sporting his Raging Bull tee shirt
Ash sporting his Raging Bull tee shirt

Oliver Stone has called director Ash Baron-Cohen "a young British filmmaker who has undoubtedly flourished to become one of the most gifted directors of his generation."

Many will recognise him as the first cousin of Borat and Ali G star Sacha Baron-Cohen - but Ash is a silver screen talent in his own right and has two prestigious Hollywood projects underway this summer.

Baron-Cohen is currently casting for RadioActive, a contemporary gangster love story set in Los Angeles against a backdrop of multicultural Americana.

The 15-million dollar project is scheduled to go into production in July.

Baron-Cohen took some inspiration from classic gangster films when he wrote RadioActive, but sought a fresh perspective from a female point of view.

He plays the dual concepts of the violence of love and the love of violence against each other throughout the script.

Alongside RadioActive, Ash is attached to direct Novella, a stylistic, Basic Instinct-like romantic thriller about a murder at a literary college. Grammy-winner Kenny Kravitz, in his first lead film role, is playing a literary professor.

We spoke to Ash after his Brit Week red carpet appearence, quizzed him about his new projects and discovered he thinks Lenny Kravitz could be the next Frank Sinatra.

Click: You are working with Lenny Kravitz - what brought you two together and tell us about his acting talents?

Ash: "Lenny saw some of my earlier work - This Girl's Life and approached me, which was great.

"I chose Lenny because I believe he has the potential of Frank Sinatra and Elvis in his early years. He has such a natural and powerful presence and could easily be the next Frank Sinatra.

"Although he has a slightly different complexion than Frank - he has the same broad appeal and brooding, soulful quality.

"Lenny is a close friend of Denzel Washington's and he has gotten a lot of advice from him about acting without being conscious of the lines.

"I actually auditioned him before his big Rose Bowl show and wanted to explore his vulnerable side.

"So I got him to take all his jewellry off and filmed his screen test in the bath, which I'm sure lots of his female fans would like to see."

Click: What do you feel about seeing your cousin Sacha become a mega celebrity over there and do you think parts of his humour in Borat were misunderstood?

Ash: "I'm really proud of him - he worked hard to get where he is.

"It feels great to see him doing so well and to know that he's out there championing my work as much as I champion his.

"I feel that he was really well received and that the American public and the critics really enjoy what he does."

Click: Do you think its a shame that the British film industry seem to lose so much burgeoning talent to Hollywood?

Ash: "The British movie industry has contributed so much to the history of film and to Hollywood, but it does need to invest more in home grown talent.

"I'm totally open to returning to work in the UK. If I was given the budget and the chance to make a movie like Trainspotting... I'd be home in a shot."

Click: We heard about your legendary blagging prowess whilst still in film school after getting Richard Harris to appear in your film Little Warriors by pulling a sickie on the set of Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven.

Do you find that your English accent has opened a few doors for you?

Ash: "The funny thing about LA is that as soon as people hear the first trace of a British accent - they give you instant respect.

"To Amercians it is a badge of intelligence and it doesn't matter who you are.

"You could be the hardest, most vile gangster from the back end of London, but the locals think its delightful and treat you like a revered member of the aristocracy."

Click: What do you make of Guy Ritchie?

Ash: "Guy Ritchie does what he does and he pulls it off very well.

"I like to make movies that are all very different from the last as it keeps your mind and eye fresh.

"But he seems to have fallen in to a formula that has become comfortable for him and producers now want to see it repeated.

"Now, Jason Streatham is a guy who does very well over here off the back of his English accent.

"The girls love it - I hear he's been on a rampant pillaging spree thanks to his dulcet East End tones."

Click: Which British watering hole pulls the best pint in LA?

Ash: "Oh I don't spend that much time in the Brit pubs, but it has to be either the Cat and Fiddle or the Kings Head."

Interview courtesy of Lee Runchey in L.A.



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"Lenny Kravitz in the bath? Love it." Lynn, Liverpool around 6 years, 2 months ago

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