'Borat' Actor Sacha Baron Cohen Sues MA Cannabis Firm Over Billboard

Actor Sacha Baron Cohen is suing a Massachusetts cannabis dispensary for using the image of his character Borat on an interstate billboard advertisement.

The British actor, who has played the comedy character in two Borat movies, is seeking compensation of "at least" $9 million from Solar Therapeutics for its use of the film favorite's image in the promotional campaign.

Baron Cohen is suing for copyright infringement, false advertising and misappropriation of his right of publicity over the use of the image, which shows the fictional Kazakh journalist giving the thumbs up while stating: "It's Nice!"

"By use of the Billboard, the Defendants falsely have conveyed to the public that Mr. Baron Cohen has endorsed their products and is affiliated with their business," wrote attorney David Condon in the complaint, per The Hollywood Reporter. "To the contrary, Mr. Baron Cohen never has used cannabis in his life. He never would participate in an advertising campaign for cannabis, for any amount of money."

In the complaint, it has been stated that Baron Cohen, who is married to actress Isla Fisher, has refused "countless opportunities" to take on brand endorsement deals to avoid undermining his acting career and social activism.

"Mr. Baron Cohen is highly protective of his image and persona, and those of his characters," read the complaint. "Mr. Baron Cohen is very careful with the manner in which he uses his persona and his characters to interact with his fans and the general public."

Additionally, it was stated in the suit that Baron Cohen has never used cannabis, and has avoided shining a positive light on it in his previous work.

Wrote Condon: "With his Ali G character, portrayed by Mr. Baron Cohen in the HBO television series Da Ali G Show, Mr. Baron Cohen has spent much of his career making a mockery of 'stoner' culture – a culture which the Defendants' Billboard overtly celebrates.

"In addition, Mr. Baron Cohen was born into an Orthodox Jewish family; he is an Observant Jew; and he is proud of his cultural heritage.

"He does not wish to be involved in the heated controversy among the Orthodox Jewish community about whether cannabis can be used under Jewish traditions, customs, and rules."

The complaint also pointed out that cannabis use remains a federal crime across the U.S., despite a number of states now permitting its use.

After Baron Cohen's lawyer sent a cease-and-desist letter on April 24, 2021, the company said the billboard had been taken down three days later, but no compensation has been paid out to Baron Cohen for use of his character's image, according to the complaint.

When contacted by Newsweek, a legal representative for Baron Cohen said: "This is another salvo in the larger battle against fake celebrity endorsements. Sacha is joining Ellen DeGeneres, Sandra Bullock, Clint Eastwood and others who have sued to put a stop to this practice."

A lawyer for Solar Therapeutics told Newsweek: "Upon receipt of the cease and desist letter from Mr. Cohen's legal counsel Solar immediately requested that the sign company remove the billboard in question. As there is an active case before the court, we have no further comment at this time."

Update 07/14/2021 3:40 a.m. ET: This article was updated to include statements from legal representatives for Baron Cohen and Solar Therapeutics.

"Borat" star Sacha Baron Cohen
Sacha Baron Cohen is suing Massachusetts cannabis company Solar Therapeutics for using his character Borat's (L) image in an advertising campaign. ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images/George Pimentel/WireImage