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Interview With Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown; Interview With Sacha Baron Cohen and Aaron Sorkin. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired April 12, 2021 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.
Here's what's coming up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three, two, one, ladies and gentlemen, take your seats. Have your first drinks.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): a toast to opening up.
I talk to former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown about lifting lockdowns, combating vaccine inequality, and more pressing issues.
SACHA BARON COHEN, ACTOR: We're going to Chicago to protest the Vietnam War.
AMANPOUR: Sacha Baron Cohen transformed from the bumbling Borat to 1960 social activist Abbie Hoffman. The Oscar-nominated actor joins us, along
with director Aaron Sorkin, to discuss their riveting historical fort drama, "The Trial of the Chicago 7."
TOM VILSACK, U.S. AGRICULTURE SECRETARY: I'm deeply concerned about the opportunities in rural America.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack tells our Walter Isaacson how growing up an orphan inspired him to help America's forgotten families.
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone, I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson led a special session in the House of Commons today, paying tribute to Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth's husband of more
than 70 years who died on Friday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Though I suspect, Mr. Speaker, that he might be embarrassed or even faintly exasperated to receive these
tributes, he made this country a better place.
And for that, he will be remembered with gratitude and with fondness for generations to come.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Now, a funeral will be held on Saturday, a low-key affair by royal standards in part due to COVID restrictions.
Now, while many rules are still in place, England's vaccine rollout has been a success and lockdowns are starting to lift. All shops can reopen
today, such as hairdressers and gyms, and outdoor pints at pubs are now allowed.
England, along with the United States, are moving quickly towards vaccine- backed herd immunity. But so many other countries are nowhere near achieving that goal.
As Britain prepares to host the G7 meeting of the world's most advanced economies in June, the former Prime Minister Gordon Brown says global mass
vaccination must be the highest priority. He says it makes financial sense and it is a moral imperative, and he's going to join us in a moment.
But, first, Minnesota once again erupts in protest after police fatally shot another black man at a traffic stop. According to the police chief,
the officer was attempting to draw her Taser, but accidentally pulled her gun and fired it.
The community is shaken. The 20-year-old Daunte Wright was shot not far from where former policeman Derek Chauvin is on trial now for the killing
of George Floyd. His death really propelled the Black Lives Matter movement, which is defining this current era, just as the 1960s and '70s
were defined by a different wave of protest, anti-war activism.
The Oscar nominated film "The Trial of the Chicago 7" tackles this topic, telling the story of a group of Vietnam War protesters charged with
conspiracy for allegedly inciting riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.
It's a riveting historical courtroom drama, with a whole host of acclaimed actors, including the man who brought Borat to life, Sacha Baron Cohen.
Take a look at this clip from the trailer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: They were chanting that the whole world is watching.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: If we leave here without saying anything about why we came in the first place, it will be heartbreaking.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Last summer, why did you come to the convention?
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: To end the war.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: We're giving them exactly what they want, a stage and an audience.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: You really think there's going to be a big audience.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: This is what revolution looks like, real revolution.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: We may have to hurt somebody's feelings.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, I have been talking to Sacha Baron Cohen and writer/director Aaron Sorkin about the way that trial resonates today amid the courtroom
effort to find justice for George Floyd and, of course, the incitement and insurgency on Capitol Hill back in January.
AMANPOUR: Sacha Baron Cohen, Aaron Sorkin, welcome to the program.
What do you make of the reality in which we live mirroring, to some extent, your film and that era?
AARON SORKIN, WRITER/DIRECTOR: I'm not sure if we boomeranged back to 1968, like we were stretching a rubber band, or it's always been there, and
somehow Donald Trump uncovered it.
This all started in 2006, almost 15 years ago now, when I was -- Steven Spielberg asked me to come over to his House on a Saturday morning. And
just to be clear, that's not common. I don't hang out with Steven Spielberg on Saturday mornings.
He told me he wanted to make a movie about the Chicago Seven. And I said, Chicago Seven, that sounds great. Count me in. Chicago Seven will make a
great movie. And I left his house and I called my father and asked my father who the Chicago Seven were.
So I was just saying yes to working with Steven Spielberg then. But I did a lot of research. There are a dozen or so good books, some of them written
by the defendants. There's a 21,000-page trial transcript.
But I always wanted the film to be about today and not 1968. I just never imagined how much about today it would end up being.
Just also want to mention the January 6 attack on the Capitol. It was actually Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani and a few others who stood at a
microphone and did exactly what the Chicago Seven were on trial for doing, inciting a riot.
AMANPOUR: I mean, it is -- it really is extraordinary.
And, of course, in a moment, we will also talk about "Borat," because that also has the Rudy Giuliani episode in it.
SORKIN: I'm excited to talk about "Borat."
AMANPOUR: You will soon.
Sacha, you also kind of have a long history with Abbie Hoffman right? You play Abbie Hoffman in the film. He's the head of the Yippies, the Youth
International Movement. And you, though, I think, came across him, studied him when you were still at college.
So, 1992, I did my undergraduate thesis about Jews in the black civil rights movement in the '60s. And Abbie features prominently. And he was one
of many students who went down the South and risked their lives to fight against systemic racism. And my -- what I was looking into was, why were
Jews 30 times more likely than American whites to be involved in the civil rights movement?
Then that group went on and formed the basis of the anti-Vietnam War movement. So, many of the Chicago Seven had actually been down South in the
And Abbie was somebody who I found fascinating, even back then, because he was using humor to undermine the establishment and mock unjust power. So,
he was inspirational even back then.
AMANPOUR: We have got several clips from the movie, and I want to play this one, which has -- we go between the real Abbie Hoffman and then a clip
from the movie. So I'm going to play it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ABBIE HOFFMAN, ACTIVIST: I think we're being tried with carrying a state of mind across a state border. And it's a very unusual law, and we're the
first ones to be tried under it.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Do you know why you're on trial here?
COHEN: We carried certain ideas across state lines, not machine guns, or drugs or little girls. Ideas. When we crossed from New York, to New Jersey,
to Pennsylvania, to Ohio, to Illinois, we had certain ideas. And for that, we were gassed, beaten, arrested and put on trial.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: How difficult was it for you to emulate and translate and interpret him? I'm really fascinated that Aaron chose a whole bunch of very
distinguished British actors to play these iconic Americans.
COHEN: I mean, it was a real challenge, I have to be honest.
Firstly, the accent is difficult, even for most Americans. To play a kind of Boston accent is seen as the trickiest one. He also was very influenced
by the comedian Lenny Bruce. And during the trial, he'd go on tour to raise money for the Chicago Seven by doing stand-up, but it was political stand-
up, and he was hilarious.
So, I mean, what I did was, I tried to do as much research as I could. He was very, very aware of the power of press. He would have been on this show
trying to spread his cause. And Aaron brilliantly shows in the script he wants to demonstrate where the cameras are.
And he realized that the whole trial was not to prevent them from being imprisoned. He knew they were going to jail. He knew that it was to
convince people at home and make it entertaining enough people that are home would turn against this unjust war.
So, just did a huge amount of research. The idea was not to emulate him, but to somehow kind of inhabit him. And then I had this incredible script
to play with.
AMANPOUR: Let me play this little clip of Eddie Redmayne playing Tom Hayden. Tom Hayden was less about revolution and more about sort of
progressive change. And Abbie Hoffman was more about major revolutionary change.
So, we're going to play this clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EDDIE REDMAYNE, ACTOR: My problem is that, for the next 50 years, when people think of progressive politics, they're going to think of you.
They're going to think of you and your idiot followers passing out daisies to soldiers and trying to levitate the Pentagon.
So they're not going to think of equality or justice. They're not going to think of education or poverty or progress. They're going to think of a
bunch of stoned, lost, disrespectful, foul-mouthed, lawless losers.
And so we will lose elections.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SORKIN: Well, the political tension between Abbie and Tom, which is really my favorite part of the film, because it's the personal part of the film.
It's the story of these two guys who they're on the same side, they plainly can't stand each other, and they each think that the other is doing harm to
And, to me, it's very much reflection of what you see in the Democratic Party today, of the tension between the left and the further left, people
who think change needs to be incremental and people who are tired of incremental change and want some kind of revolution.
AMANPOUR: Sacha Baron Cohen, much, much has been written about you. But I think it's interesting that not only do people consider you, obviously, a
brilliant satirist, comedian, but also a political and social activist.
And I have heard you talk about not just this film, but also "Borat," in which you had an agenda, you had a political agenda, certainly regarding
Donald Trump and the four years of that administration.
COHEN: I don't perceive myself as having a role. I just felt compelled to do something.
So I was particularly worried and angered by Trump's presidency. I was terrified about what would happen to America if Trump won again. And so I
did three things.
One, I ensured that I could make "Chicago 7," and I stopped "Borat" to do it. Two, I decided to make "Borat" to incentivize and urge any fans of mine
to go out and vote. It ended with a simple message, which was: Now vote. And that's why "Borat" was designed to infiltrate the Trump regime.
And the third thing I did was, I came out as myself and spoke about the danger of social media. And the reason I did that was, I believe deeply
that, if social media didn't change prior to the election, that its inherent bias towards misinformation and lies and conspiracies would help
Trump to win.
So I didn't want to be a bystander. I was inspired by the likes of Abbie Hoffman. And I felt those were the three things I could do.
AMANPOUR: You said "Borat" was to protect the American democracy from Donald Trump.
You took some pretty extraordinary -- you went to some pretty extraordinary lengths and took some pretty extraordinary risks. I mean, obviously, the
end where the young actress was portrayed as your daughter, and she went into interview Rudy Giuliani, I mean, of course, everybody knows about that
It's viral. Everybody knows. But just how scary was it for you and for her, and what kind of security measures did you have to take them?
COHEN: Well, yes, I mean, we have been told that he would come with police protection. And he came with a cop.
And we also knew that the cop would check the room for any other one -- anyone who was there. And so we built a hideaway that I stayed inside of
for about an hour-and-a-half. It was a little bit wider than me and about 6'5'' high. And I hid in there while the guy was casing the room.
And then when we left, well, the interview ended, and then the policeman told us to stay in the room, myself and Maria, and that we weren't allowed
to leave the room. And I was playing Borat, obviously.
Borat doesn't know what chair is. What is this machine with full legs? And, suddenly, the cop was saying, stay in the room until the rest of the police
I would like, you have no right. This is my property. You must leave my property. Suddenly, Borat was an expert on New York law.
And, so, this is false imprisonment. I warn you, my lawyers will be -- and we basically ran out of the hotel to a getaway vehicle. Giuliani then
accused us of a federal crime, and, therefore, got the room searched, which is hugely improper, because it's essentially our property because we bought
-- paid for the room.
And I was advised -- and myself and Maria were advised to leave the state in a rush, because we had hired a cop to protect us. He had immediately
told Giuliani's cop where I was staying, the Airbnb I was staying, and the crew hotel, and then I was advised by a lawyer to leave the state
immediately, and I was frantically calling friends. Hi, how are you? Haven't spoken to you in a few years?
Could I stay at yours? Sure. When? How about in 20 minutes? And one of them said yes. And I drove out to Connecticut and stayed at his house, had a
lovely time for a couple of days. And the police impounded the equipment...
COHEN: ... 24 hours.
AMANPOUR: And just -- I mean, obviously, Maria -- I mean, you're not American either, but she's definitely not American, and very young, young
Were you concerned about her safety? Could -- I mean, did you sort of game- plan that?
I assured her, as a producer, that I would look up to her. So, we had her security team, and we went through the escape route and everything. And,
obviously, if I had not intervened, the interview might have ended up in a rather sordid place.
And I guaranteed her that I would not let that happen. So, obviously, the rest of the movie, I tried to ensure that she was not there for some of the
more dangerous scenes, or she was not there in a position where she could get hurt.
AMANPOUR: Aaron, I mean, you have been sort of giggling as this story is being recounted.
But I want to ask you, as an American, director, writer, artist, would you -- I mean, Sacha Baron Cohen stands out for really pushing the limits and
really -- I think it's very courageous. Many people might have their own views about it.
But the Ali G persona, "Who Is America?" all the people who've had to quit their jobs or be turfed out because of how they have revealed themselves.
SORKIN: Well, there's no doubt that Sacha is doing that.
And, by the way, I think it's more than a little courageous. I don't think people don't realize that Sacha regularly puts himself in danger, and would
never, by the way, put anyone else in danger.
But when he walks into CPAC or the Giuliani scene, he is putting himself in either legal or physical danger.
AMANPOUR: Sacha, do you think you will do another "Borat"? Is there a time when you think, well, I have done that or I can't do that anymore?
COHEN: I plan to not do it again. I think "Borat" was a near impossible movie to make, because -- for the pure fact that, at its basis, if word got
out that I was making "Borat," it would have been impossible to make, because we're relying on real people not knowing who I am.
I think also the movie ended up being a lot more dangerous than I expected. And I think, quite frankly, you can prepare, but you rely on a lot of luck.
And there was a gun rights rally that I was at where I was chased off- stage. Somebody reached for his pistol and I was lucky enough that a bodyguard grabbed his arm and stopped the guy doing whatever he was
intending to do.
I think it's too dangerous to do anymore. And, again, I brought the gray suit out of the wardrobe for the purpose of convincing -- try to convince a
few fans to vote against Trump. So, that purpose is not there anymore.
And now I don't want to take the risk anymore.
AMANPOUR: All right.
SORKIN: And if I can just jump in?
SORKIN: And I promise you I do not own stock in Sacha Baron Cohen.
But Sacha was making "Borat" before and after "Chicago 7." He stopped making "Borat" at to do "Chicago 7," promising the producers -- they needed
to get the film out before the election -- promising the producers that we will still be able to make it if we just take these eight weeks and stop.
The producers were saying, no, you will never be able to make it. He swore that they could. We wrapped, and COVID almost immediately began.
So, no one anticipated he was going to run into that. But as difficult as it must have been to make "Borat" out the first time, imagine the skill it
takes to make it the second time, when everyone knows who Borat is and can see him coming.
AMANPOUR: It is remarkable.
And just final word, then, Aaron, to your film. What do you hope the legacy of "The Trial of the Chicago 7" will be? What did you -- why did you want
to do it?
SORKIN: Before anything else, I just want it to be movie that people like watching, a courtroom drama that people like watching.
But, beyond that, I hope it's a valentine to protest. One of the things that -- it took so many years to make the movie, but the thing that finally
got it made -- I hate giving credit to Donald Trump for anything, but he's what green-lit the movie, because, at is rallies, there'd be protesters,
and he would start getting nostalgic about the old days when we would carry that guy out of here on a stretcher and punch him in the face and beat the
crap out of him. I'll pay your legal bills.
And everybody thought that athletes kneeling during the national anthem made them un-American, unpatriotic. So the Chicago Seven, they were called
unpatriotic, un-American, anti-American, overly educated pansies.
Well, they were anything but weak. They risked their lives. They risked 10 years in federal prison. And it's widely accepted today that they hastened
the end of a war. Stack that up against congressmen and senators who weren't willing to risk having a primary opponent, and decide who the
AMANPOUR: It is remarkable. And I would say very seriously that the four years of the Trump presidency really did revive protest, and I think in an
amazing way, on every single level.
So, Aaron Sorkin, Sacha Baron Cohen, thank you so much, indeed, for joining us.
SORKIN: Thank you very much.
COHEN: Thank you very much. Thank you.
AMANPOUR: And both those films have been rewarded with so many nominations and prizes during this -- during this award season.
Of course, Oscars are up next.
Now, just a note: Rudy Giuliani says the "Borat" video, of course, is a complete fabrication, and he claims he was never inappropriate.
And today is also the 32nd anniversary of the death of Abbie Hoffman, the character Sacha Baron Cohen was playing. He had suffered from bipolar
disorder, and he died by suicide in 1989. He was just 52 years old.
Now we return to our top story about COVID and the need for a global response to this with the former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
Welcome to the program.
You have been very clear. You have written op-eds, columns about what you think absolutely needs to be done and what should be the highest priority.
You have talked about countries perhaps having to put 30 -- I don't know, correct me if I'm wrong, $30 billion a year into this effort for the
What has to happen, do you think?
GORDON BROWN, FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Well, that's a small price to pay, because nobody is safe anywhere until everybody is safe everywhere.
And we have got 70 percent of adults vaccinated in the United Kingdom, but only 1 percent of adults in sub-Saharan Africa. And as long as the rest of
the world is not vaccinated, whether it's 2022 or 2023 before they are, then the disease will continue to spread, it will mutate, there will be new
And, of course, it threatens both lives and livelihoods in every country of the world. So it's not a choice between vaccinating at home and vaccinating
around the world. We have got to do both.
Now, the price, $30 billion a year, very small price to pay. It's far less than what has been lost in output. It's far smaller than what we had to do
in 2009, when we had a trillion stimulus at the G20. President Biden's got a $2 trillion stimulus in America; $30 billion could be paid by America
But I'm suggesting that we burden-share right around the world. And, of course, the richest countries, the G7, should pay the lion's share, about
60 percent of the cost that needs to be met.
AMANPOUR: How would you make this happen if you were prime minister?
You mentioned the financial crisis. You were prime minister then. You hosted G7s and other G meetings. And this crisis, COVID, has been marked by
its complete lack of global coordination. It's like each person for themselves, each country for themselves, each state for themselves.
What would you say to your fellow leaders in June at the G7 to make this happen?
BROWN: Yes, last year, we wasted the chance to cooperate. We didn't cooperate on exchanging information, on getting the vaccine out.
Of course, we didn't cooperate on equipment and ventilators. This year, we have got a real chance. President Biden has said he wants to contribute.
The Europeans, I think, realize that they have got to be part of a collective effort. And then China, Russia, the other countries should come
I think the starting point is the G7 meeting, June the 13th, United Kingdom, Boris Johnson chairing. Now, if he can do what we tried to do in
2009, and bring together the major countries, and instead of saying, we're going to have a whip round to raise money, which is what has happened in
the past in the last few months, what you say is, look, here's a fair system of burden-sharing.
It's based on what you contribute to the United Nations' peacekeeping. It's similar to what was done when we eradicated smallpox in the 1960s, when
there was a levy on World Health Organization members. So bring people together, America paying roughly 25 percent, Europe roughly 25 percent, G7
60 percent, G20, as a whole, 85 to 90 percent, the oil states, Scandinavia.
Then you have got some other countries who would be prepared to contribute. And then you can say to the poorer countries, we can get on with this
vaccination program.We solve the problem of discovery with brilliant science. We will solve the problem of logistics with manufacturing. We have
got to know solve the problem of finance.
AMANPOUR: Gordon Brown, obviously, we have said that Britain has done a great job with the vaccine rollout.
But, of course, there's all these complaints about vaccine nationalism, and now some countries are stopping exports. And it's just a bit of a mess, in
terms of the big picture.
The foreign minister of...
BROWN: Well, that's a lack of coordination as well.
AMANPOUR: Well, exactly.
But I just wanted to ask you to address this, because the Kenyan Foreign Ministry accused the U.K. of -- quote -- "vaccine apartheid." That is
really strong. He said: "Vaccine-producing countries around the world have begun practicing a form of vaccine nationalism, possessiveness, and
discrimination, coupled with a vaccine hoarding attitude that can only be described as a form of vaccine apartheid."
And let me also just play the secretary-general of the WHO, who believes in what you're saying, and then we can discuss.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, DIRECTOR GENERAL, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: There remains a shocking imbalance in the global distribution of vaccines.
More than 700 million vaccine doses have been administered globally, but over 87 percent have gone to high-income or upper- and middle-income
countries, while low-income countries have received just 0.2 percent.
On average, in high-income countries, almost one in four people has received a vaccine. In low income countries, it's one in more than 500.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, I want to ask you, because we have seen Africa, which does not seem to have exploded in a catastrophe that people had predicted, given
its much less robust public health system.
We don't really know the full extent of what's happening in Russia. It's claimed that the cases and the deaths are much higher than are being
reported. But we do know what's happening in India. And that is, it's kind of a meltdown right now. Their quite good coping at the beginning has
morphed into a disaster.
And they're saying, experts, I'm sure you agree, that what happens in India is going to sort of dominate the global COVID response and the reality.
So, again, what do we need to be looking for in that part of the world as well or to help that part of the world?
BROWN: Yes, you're absolutely right.
What's missing is coordination of the production of the vaccine. We solved the problem, as I said, of discovery, brilliant science. But now we have
got to ramp up production in every part of the world. Now, that could mean transferring technology, licensing agreements, the patent being temporarily
waived. And that's something that has been discussed in the World Health Organization.
But one way or another, we have got to ramp up the supply. And I think that can be done very quickly, because there are so many vaccines now and, at
the same time, potential producers are available. That's a logistics problem. Then you have got to get to the finance.
And what Africa is complaining about is that they're not going to get a supply of vaccine for a long time. I think 70,000 people only have been
fully vaccinated in sub-Saharan Africa. And that compares with, what, 30 million in Britain already.
And so there's a justifiable complaint that they are going to be treated as second-class citizens, and that cannot be justified. It's not their fault
that the vaccine -- it's not their fault that the virus is there. It's not their fault that they are not initially the producers of the vaccine. But
we have got to get the vaccine to them as quickly as possible.
And I tell you, from my experience of world meetings, this is a deliverable at the June the 13th G7. It needs the countries to get around the table to
say, we have got to have a burden-sharing agreement.
Then I can suggest a number of financing mechanisms, so you front-load the vaccines, so they get to people quickly, and you pay over a period of time.
It all can be done, if the governments could get their act together and work together.
AMANPOUR: Well, that's good news.
Prime Minister, stand by. The network is going back to the coverage of the trial of Derek Chauvin for the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota.
And, apparently, George Floyd's brother is now testifying.