Sacha Baron Cohen Wins Bruno Lawsuit

January 5, 2012 by staff 

Sacha Baron Cohen Wins Bruno Lawsuit, A California Appeals Court has agreed with a lower court that an altercation by Cohen at a bingo parlor during the filming of the 2009 comedy Bruno was protected free speech.

Cohen, NBC Universal, and other production companies on Bruno were sued in 2009 by Richelle Olson and her husband after allegedly being subjected to a confrontation that resulted in injuries including a “brain bleed.”

After the lawsuit was filed, Universal struck back immediately with a letter to Olson, saying that taped footage of the “altercation” showed no assault took place. The studio’s lawyers threatened the Olsons with punishment if they chose to persist with a a “demonstrably and ludicrously false complaint.”

It looks like Universal was indeed serious and is about to get the Olsons to pay up for making a claim on the eve of the Bruno release.

The incident in question happened on May 24, 2007 at Olson’s bingo hall. Cohen, acting as “Bruno,” was invited up to the stage to call out the numbers. The film crew was present, and all of the elderly people in attendance had signed a “Standard Consent Agreement” to be filmed for a “documentary-style film.”

Universal submitted 28 minutes of unedited footage showing what happened. According to a footnote in the latest appeals court decision:

“After Cohen called out the Bingo number 36, he states that “36″ was the age of his former male partner. Later, when he calls out the number 3, he says that his former partner’s birthday was “May 3.” When he later calls out the number 59, he remarks that 59 was the number of his hotel room he stayed in when he met his former partner, and a few minutes later when he announces number 42, Cohen offers that “42 inches was his partner’s chest size. Finally, after Cohen announces the number 7, he comments that he met his partner on “July 7.” Some members of the audience can be heard laughing after each comment.”

The scene never appeared in the final film, which is too bad, because arguably it had what might of been the film’s best line. As Cohen continued making comments, Olson became alarmed at the vulgarity and concerned for the other Bingo players. So she approached the stage area and told Cohen to stop. Cohen asks why he can’t continue and why she’s being so rude, and Olson responds by polling the audience whether they wanted him or Olson to continue with the number-calling. The audience chose Olson.

As security officers escorted Cohen and his crew to the exit, Richelle Olson announced to the audience: “I will not have anyone make a mockery of this bingo hall.”

Later, Olson left the stage to calm herself down, where, sobbing uncontrollably, she lost consciousness, hitting her head into the concrete floor. Paramedics took her away, and she says she was diagnosed with two brain bleeds and has been in a wheelchair and walker ever since.

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