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Local man keeps cool in 'Borat'

November 21, 2006|by ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN - More than a year ago, Jim Sell encountered a difficult customer while working as a salesman at Criswell Automotive in Gaithersburg, Md.

The customer, who allegedly was from a foreign country, offered $600, dried meat and his prostitute sister in exchange for a new $70,000 Hummer.

Sell, of Hagerstown, was told that the man was filming a documentary.

"I was thinking, 'This guy is either on drugs or trying to make me look stupid in his country,'" Sell said.

That guy was comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, star of the hit movie "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit of Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan."

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The film debuted No. 1 at the box office with $26.5 million.

Sell did not crack under Cohen's repeated baiting.

During one scene in the movie, Cohen asked Sell what cars Jewish people drove, explaining that he did not want to look like a Jew. He also asked Sell several questions while making derogatory sexual remarks about women.

Sell deflected all of the racist and sexist comments.

"I wasn't going to incriminate myself," Sell said. "No one is going to make me look bad."

About half of the language that Cohen used during their three-hour encounter was filthy, Sell said.

Sell's daughter recently saw the movie.

"She said, 'Dad, I'm so proud you weren't' like the other people in the movie,'" he said.

Before Cohen arrived at the car dealership, Sell was given $150 and signed a release, he said. He did not get a copy of the release.

Producers and the cameramen kept people away from the area they were filming in, probably because they didn't want anyone to recognize Cohen, who appears on HBO, Sell said.

Sell found out who Cohen was from a coworker just hours after the film crew left, he said.

Since the movie premiered, the auto dealership has been mobbed by people wanting Sell to sign movie stubs, and the crowds have slowed his business, he said.

"It's been a nuthouse in here," Sell said.

Newsweek, The Washington Post and People magazine are just a few of the national media outlets that have interviewed Sell.

"It's not worth being in this movie. It's not the kind of movie you can be proud of," Sell said.

One woman who appeared in the movie filed a complaint with the California Attorney General, requesting an investigation into possible violations of the California Unfair Trade Practices Act, because she was told the filming would be used for a documentary in Belarus.

Two Chi Psi fraternity brothers from South Carolina, who made several sexist and racist comments that appeared in the movie, filed a lawsuit naming 20th Century Fox and three production companies as defendants.

The film "made plaintiffs the object of ridicule, humiliation, mental anguish and emotional and physical distress, loss of reputation, goodwill and standing in the community," the lawsuit said.

"I think I'm one of the only ones without a lawyer," Sell said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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