TMZ reports that Baron Cohen is upset about a giant billboard that was next to the interstate and included the face of the fictional Kazakhstani journalist alongside the phrase “It’s nice.” In legal documents the actor/comedian says he has no connection to the company.
“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,” attorney David Condon wrote 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.”
The Hollywood Reporter adds Baron Cohen’s claim that he’s turned down “countless opportunities” to pair with a corporate brand because he thinks it’ll ding his credibility as an actor and social activist. Based on the comments from his legal rep both above and below this paragraph it also sounds like, if he were to pair up with a company, a cannabis business would be way down the list.
“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,” Condon continued. “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.”
A cease-and-desist letter from Baron Cohen’s lawyer reportedly led to the company taking down the billboard, but its declined to give him compensation.
Baron Cohen is looking to get $9 million in damages for copyright infringement, false advertising and misappropriation of his right of publicity, and is also asking the court to stop Solar Therapeutics from using his name, image, and likeness to sell its products.
Though you probably won’t (completely understandable) you can read the full complaint here.