Sacha Baron Cohen looks to Spanish fascism

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Sacha Baron Cohen’s new starring roles have been a hot topic for fans eager to see him rebound from the pallor of ‘Bruno.’

While the actor will, in early 2011, begin shooting ‘The Dictator’ (the ‘Coming to America’-type story about a goat herder and dictator that looks to be directed by Larry Charles), Cohen’s next lead part is an open question.


One possibility: ‘Torrente,’ a Hollywood take on Spain’s favorite racist and corrupt cop.

In case you’re not familiar with Spanish releases: Created by and starring the Spanish comedian Santiago Segura, the films are a popular comedy-action franchise (the first three have topped the box office, and a fourth will soon be released) in which the main character, Jose Luis Torrente, traffics in all manner of shady outrageousness in pursuit of his own brand of justice. (He’s actually been fired from the police force but continues to patrol the neighborhood.)

A person familiar with the Hollywood version, which is set up at New Line, notes that Cohen has met several times on the movie, and that Alec Berg, Jeff Schaffer and David Mandel are now writing the script. The trio are the ‘Seinfeld ‘ writers who are, serendipitously enough, also writing ‘The Dictator,’ which gives Cohen further incentive to do it.

The wild card is Cohen himself. The actor (who will next be seen in a supporting role in ‘Hugo Cabret’) has expressed intense interest in taking the part (he even wants to set the movie in Spain), but is famously fussy about his starring vehicles.

Would the man who popularized ‘Jagshemash’ make a good Torrente? After first making Kazakhstan, then Austria, his filmic homeland, Spain seems like a logical westward step (maybe he’ll eventually get to Britain). And this role would mix things up -- instead of the international buffoon he’s played in the past, ‘Torrente’ offers a character with a dark and unlikable edge. We can only imagine the catch phrase possibilities.

-- Steven Zeitchik