Borat 2’s Maria Bakalova was filming a scene with Pedro Pascal when director Judd Apatow stopped a take to tell her she’d been nominated for an Oscar.
Maria Bakalova found out about her Best Supporting Oscar nomination for Borat Subsequent Moviefilm in the middle of filming a scene. The 24-year-old Bulgarian actress was relatively unknown before playing Borat’s daughter Tutar in last year’s surprise sequel to the 2006 comedy classic Borat. The difficult role required a lot of high-stakes improvisation that came with the possibility of physical danger, whether by antagonizing people that could become violent, attending an anti-mask protest during a pandemic, or agreeing to be in a hotel room with Rudy Giuliani.
Bakalova made a big splash with the release of Borat 2, with many critics singling her out as the best part of the new film, and that has translated to awards season success so far. Before yesterday, she had already scored wins from numerous film critics circles, as well as nominations from the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild Awards. (She also shares a Razzie nomination with Giuliani for Worst Screen Combo, a rare instance when a nod from the anti-Oscars was probably welcome). While this strong a push is rare for comedic performances, which are often overlooked at awards shows, it made her a virtual lock to be nominated by the Academy. And since the Best Supporting Actress category seen as one of this year’s most difficult to predict, there’s a very real chance Bakalova could win.
For the actress herself, though, this process is far more surreal. According to an interview with Variety, Bakalova was in the middle of filming for Judd Apatow’s COVID-comedy The Bubble and chose not to watch the nominations broadcast. Apatow interrupted a scene between her and Pedro Pascal to tell her:
I can’t believe it’s happening. It’s the best of the best of the best day of my life. I was on set because I’m working on an incredible project with Judd Apatow. In the beginning of the day, Judd asked me, “Do you want to be private? Do you want to watch the ceremony?” I said, “I’m really excited but I don’t want to be greedy.” Just the idea of people mentioning my name in the conversation about this huge recognition alongside these inspiring, amazing, great actresses has already been enough. So I was like, “Let’s just do work!” I was shooting with Pedro Pascal. We were shooting some interesting scene and Judd came into the shot and said, “You just got your nomination for the Oscars.” I said, “What?!” I think I started shaking and literally lost my mind for a second. Judd Apatow and Pedro Pascal were both so excited.
Elsewhere in the interview, when speaking to the infrequent recognition of comedy actors, Bakalova credits the political messaging of Borat Subsequent Moviefilm and the public’s need for laughter in a dark year for helping the film resonate. She also points out the “discipline” required to film with unsuspecting people, as she and co-star Sacha Baron Cohen had to nail the timing of each scene with no opportunity for a second take. Baron Cohen’s Borat has not had the same awards-traction as Tutar (though he is nominated in Best Supporting for The Trial of the Chicago 7), but Bakalova says her nomination is impossible without “his unwavering support and his trust in me” and should be considered shared between them.
Though she claims she has a lot to learn about improvising, she showed no rust under pretty intense conditions, and the film industry continues to celebrate her for it. She’ll have plenty of people rooting for her at the April 26 Oscars Ceremony – including Pascal, who celebrated his new co-star on Twitter – but this should be the start of a successful film career regardless of whether they call her name. No word yet on if Borat 2 winning an Academy Award would restore Borat’s standing with Kazakhstan, though.