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Out of character, the star of `Borat' is quite a dandy

December 01, 2006

In Hollywood, work never really stops -- it's unfolding in screening rooms, living rooms and private reception rooms ... This is the start of a regular feature.

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For many of the women who attended Fox Chairmen Jim Gianopulos and Tom Rothman's party for "Borat," the revelation of the Wednesday evening gathering was that Sacha Baron Cohen -- without his bushy Borat mustache, furry body hair and teensy-weeny chartreuse bathing suit -- was actually, yee-gads, attractive.

Indeed, the British-born, Cambridge-educated professional prankster could even qualify as tall, dark and handsome in his black suit and open-collar white shirt and definitely more accessible than such other kings of comedy as Ben Stiller and Jim Carrey.

Cohen even humored the seasonal hazard of those pesky members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., and when asked how he learned Kazhak, explained that in the movie, he's speaking an idiosyncratic blend of "Polish and Hebrew. That's why it's playing really well in Israel."

Cohen's meteoric rise through Hollywood was apparent by who showed up at Gianopulos' home to fete Kazakstan's least favorite son -- much of the industry's brain trust, including Judd Apatow, Bill Maher, Zach Braff, John C. Reilly, ubermanager Jimmy Miller, "South Park's" Matt Stone, Mike White" director Shawn Levy, Jon Heder, "Borat" director Larry Charles (who looked positively rabbinical with a long salt-and-pepper beard), Cohen's fiancee and "Wedding Crashers" star Isla Fisher, and "Borat" naked wrestling co-star Ken Davitian.

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Diamonds are on their minds

There was barely room to schmooze in the tent outside the ArcLight, where "Blood Diamond" director Ed Zwick, stars Jennifer Connelly and Djimon Hounsou, and producer Paula Weinstein were hanging out before a Wednesday night screening.

When the movie hits theaters next Friday, Zwick hopes to be decompressing someplace with his family -- anywhere but here. "It's crazy these days, it's over by 6, you know how the movie's going to open," he says. "We've got a cabin in this really small town in Colorado that we love. There's one theater; if it's playing there we'll go."

If not, it'll be just fine.

Connelly, in a sleek black sheath and diamond studs, won't be at a theater, and she wasn't staying for the screening.

"I've seen bits and pieces of it," she said. "And I really liked my character, that she was smart and independent -- could get drunk at a party but get up the next morning and do great work. I'll see it at the premiere. But I never watch my movies more than once."

The diamonds, by the way, were certified as nonconflict stones, something Connelly researched after working on the film, which explores the ravages the diamond trade has had on Africa.

Hounsou, reed thin and moving with the ease of the model he once was, and Zwick, after bear-hugging, both talked about the weight of being in Africa.

"There's something about Africa, particularly urban Africa, that is just so intense and in your face, right in your face," said Zwick.

What helped relieve the tension were the days when the kids of the cast and crew were on the set. Hounsou said he loved it when Zwick's daughter visited. "She's a lovely, lovely girl," he said.

"And she loves Djimon," Zwick added.

"Any time she was on the set, we got nice Ed, not that the other isn't great, but it was good, very good, when she was around," Hounsou said.

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rachel.abramowitz@latimes .com

betsy.sharkey@latimes.com

Times staff writers Rachel Abramowitz and BetsySharkey contributed to this report.

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