NEW YORK – A driving instructor has sued the makers of the movie "Borat," accusing them of lying to him about the nature of the crass comedy by telling him he'd be in a documentary about the integration of immigrants into U.S. life.
The lawsuit was brought Tuesday by lawyers for Michael Psenicska, a Baltimore high school mathematics teacher who has owned a driving school in Perry Hall, Md., for the last 32 years.
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, seeks $100,000 in compensatory damages and unspecified punitive damages, saying the hit movie earned hundreds of millions of dollars at the box office. It says Psenicska is entitled to damages because defendants, including producer Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. and star Sacha Baron Cohen, used images of him extensively in advertising the film, "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan."
The 2006 film, in which Cohen plays an uncouth Kazakh journalist traveling across the "U.S. and A." in pursuit of Pamela Anderson, has led to several lawsuits and criticism that it depicts Kazakhstan as bigoted and backward. Others who have sued include Southern conservatives, frat boys, Romanian villagers and a businessman seen fleeing from a hug from the British comedian.
Psenicska's lawsuit says Fox and Cohen fraudulently induced him to sign documents approving his appearance in "Borat" just before he was filmed giving Cohen's Borat Sagdiyev character a driving lesson.
According to the lawsuit, the film's staffers had promised they were producing a documentary about the integration of foreign people into the American way of life, a subject that interested Psenicska because he was in the business of teaching foreigners to drive.
Yet, it says, when filming began, Borat did a hugging and kissing routine, struggled with his seat belt like a child, drove on the wrong side of the road, made ethnic slurs, said women had small brains and rolled down a window and offered a female pedestrian $10 for "sexy time."
Twentieth Century Fox spokesman Gregg Brilliant said Psenicska consented to the filming.
"He signed a release, and we have an agreement," Brilliant said. "Now, 2 1/2 years after giving his consent and more than one year after the movie was released, Mr. Psenicska has decided to file a lawsuit, citing the financial success of the film, in spite of our agreement."