Sacha Baron Cohen, who stars in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, has donated $100,000 (£77,000) to the church of a woman who was featured in his comedy film believing it was an actual documentary.
Jeanise Jones, 62, thought she had been recruited by her place of worship, Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, to mentor Tutar, Borat’s fictional daughter who came to the US with him from Kazakhstan. But Jones didn’t find out until the film was released on Amazon Prime last week that Tutar was an actress and the man believed to be her father, Borat, was actually Baron Cohen.
Derrick Scobey, the church’s senior pastor, said Baron Cohen made the donation on Wednesday and that neither he nor other church members were aware of the movie.
According to The Oklahoman newspaper, Scobey wasn’t surprised by the donation itself but the amount, noting the money had been earmarked for community use. The pastor added that Baron Cohen knew the church was a community hub where people gathered for spiritual hope and help.
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm follows Borat Sagdiyev, portrayed by Baron Cohen, as he returns to the US from Kazakhstan, with his daughter played by Maria Bakalova, to offer a “bribe” to American leaders. It is a sequel to Borat, which was released in 2006.
After the film’s release, many Twitter users described Jones’s character as the movie’s hero, moral compass and breakout star.
Jones has not yet seen the movie but said one of the film’s producers called to check on her after it was released. Baron Cohen reached out to her on Wednesday, said Jones, who noted the call was “enlightening”.
Scobey started a GoFundMe account for Jones, saying that she believed the scenario was real and that she had lost her job as a counselling service receptionist because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Jones said on Thursday that she was surprised to hear $128,000 had already been donated through the page. “It is amazing. I would never expect anything like this,” she said. “It’s blowing my mind.”