Wed, Nov 08, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Turkish man says he was the inspiration for `Borat'


Turkey's Internet celebrity Mahir Cagri is so convinced he was the inspiration for Sasha Baron Cohen's character of Kazakh journalist Borat Sagdiyev that he plans to travel to London seeking ways he can benefit from the movie that has surprised Hollywood with a No. 1 debut.

Cagri, 44, became a cyber celebrity after he put a personal Web site online in 1999, which featured unintentionally amusing photos of himself playing ping pong or the accordion and sunbathing in a skimpy bathing suit.

Word of the site spread quickly and the Web site received more than a million hits from visitors endeared by his broken English and as well as his hilarious invitation to women: "Who is want to come TURKEY I can invitate ... She can stay my home."

"The world knows he [Baron Cohen] is copying Mahir," Cagri said in a telephone interview from his hometown of Izmir on Monday, minutes before he was to board a plane for Istanbul to appear on a talk show.

"I am not saying this -- the world is. I have received so many e-mails from people in the United States who tell me he is imitating me," he said.

Cagri -- a freelance journalist -- was scheduled to fly to London yesterday for meetings with his manager and lawyer there to discuss his options and give interviews to British newspapers. He hopes to receive an "acknowledgment or an apology" from Baron Cohen.

"The bombshell is going to fall," he said of his London trip. "[Baron Cohen] is making money by using me."

Baron Cohen's character in the movie Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan was first developed for Da Ali G Show.

The 20th Century Fox movie took in US$ 26.4 million over the opening weekend, according to studio estimates.

On the commentary to the DVD of Da Ali G Show, Baron Cohen says Borat was influenced by a man he met in southern Russia.

"I can't remember his name -- he was a doctor" Baron Cohen said. "The moment I met him, I was totally crying. He was a hysterically funny guy, albeit totally unintentionally."

The character Borat has caused outrage among Kazakhs over the way their nation is being portrayed.

Cagri set up his Web site in the hope of making foreign friends and welcoming guests from abroad to his home.

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