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Q&A: 'The Dictator'

Sacha Baron Cohen's latest movie character gives readers insights into his world view, including fashion tips he received from Kadafi.

April 27, 2012|By Elena Howe, Los Angeles Times
  • Sacha Baron Cohen in "The Dictator."
Sacha Baron Cohen in "The Dictator." (Mark Seliger, Paramount…)

It's not often that an oppressive dictator sits down with the free Western press and openly answers probing questions about his rule, his crimes against humanity and his fashion choices — those last two often being one and the same. It's even rarer for such a tyrant to sit down with the entertainment section of the free press, but hey, who are we to look a good interview in the bushy-bearded mouth? While Adm. Gen. Shabazz Aladeen of the small North African nation of Wadiya didn't physically sit across from us (in fact, for all we know this email interview could have been answered by some wiseguy comedian — say, Sacha Baron Cohen, whose movie "The Dictator" opens May 16), the supreme ruler was as open and forthright as any political leader these days.

How does one become a dictator in this day and age?

It is sadly becoming more difficult and slightly unethical — in the good old days of "Gentleman Dictatorships," you simply had to murder your father. Now, you have to do sneaky little things like rigging elections, ignoring U.N. resolutions and imprisoning most of your citizens.

Is there a dictators club? Do you pay dues and have regular meetings?

There is not officially a club but there are several places where my friends and I regularly meet: EuroDisney, Sandals Antigua, Berlosconi's Bunga-Bunga parties — and in a bad year, the Hague.

What fashion guidelines must a dictator observe?

The main thing is dress down — be careful not to wear things that can be ridiculed by the West — Moammar Kadafi taught me that. Also, don't dress like your subjects, which is why you'll never see me in leg irons or with a black hood over my head. And once you find a look, stick to it: Iran's Ahmadinejad has perfected the "chatroom predator," Fidel Castro's nailed the "truck stop restroom predator" and Kim Jong Un has made the "Fat Elvis in Army Elvis' Clothes" look his own.

How do you keep your beard groomed?

Various products — the supreme beard regularly comes into contact with Frederic Fekkai Luscious Curls shampoo, Garnier Fructis conditioner and the sweaty chests of Hollywood starlets and kidnapped Indonesian weather girls.

You wear a lot of medals; do they actually signify service to your country?

Of course they do. It would be corrupt for me to receive a medal I hadn't earned, so I always make sure that I deserve them before awarding them to myself. There are a couple that I'm sort of wearing in advance — like the ones I got for wiping Israel off the map and being the first man to walk on Mars — but these things are only a matter of time — I mean, you don't buy a pair of shoes without first trying them on, do you? I need to make sure that the ribbons match my beard color.

What is your favorite punishment for those opposed to your rule?

There has never been anybody actually opposed to my rule — although I have on occasion been required to take action against those least in favor of it. Have you heard of the Muqtani tribes in the north of Wadiya, the Burgah people in the south or the country's nomadic Qulanas? No. That's because they never existed. And do not believe any Zionist propaganda that says otherwise.

How ticked off was Ryan Seacrest when you quite clearly accidentally spilled Kim Jong Il's ashes on him at the Oscars?

Ryan was, in fact, honored and wrote to me thanking me for what happened. I actually got a lot more grief when I attended my next Axis of Evil luncheon — those guys really busted my bilbul; Hugo Chavez was like, "Hey, Aladeen, pass the salt.... Hey, Aladeen, how much did you 'urn' last year?" .... And Ahmadinejad turned up wearing his protective white coat and hair net — you know that guy's not just a Holocaust denier, he's also got a nasty side. The mishap on the red carpet actually occurred because I was trying to let Ryan in to a little secret; Kim Jong's urn was actually made in South Korea — I wanted to show him the sticker on the bottom that says so.

What bugs you the most about democracy?

It just seems to be a lot of work and hassle. First you have to campaign, then debate your opponents, then the people have to vote, then the votes have to be counted until at last, the winner can be announced. This is why in Wadiya, I have introduced a streamlined form of democracy that just has the last stage.

What current U.S. or English political figure do you think has the makings of a great future dictator?

I did have hopes for Rick Santorum but he just turned out to be too crazy — I mean, believe me, I'm all for removing the rights of women and ethnic minorities, but you have to draw the line somewhere. As for England, this year it is their dictatoress Elizabeth's Blood Diamond Jubilee.... Sixty years and her son Charles has still not murdered her and seized the throne! She must be extremely disappointed in him.

If you had to participate in the American political system, what party would you belong to and why?

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