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Sacha Baron Cohen: Five things you didn’t know

Meriah Doty
Movie Talk
May 15, 2012

Sure, Sacha Baron Cohen usually only appears in public in character, but even when the 40-year-old steps out as himself, he tends not to divulge too much personal information. (We do know he has been married to "Wedding Crashers" star Isla Fisher since 2010, and the couple has two young daughters: 4-year-old Olive and Elula, who will soon be 2.)

His latest creation, Adm. Gen. Shabazz Aladeen in "The Dictator," is perhaps best known for his crimes against humanity, but Baron Cohen himself is best known lately for his outlandish publicity stunts for the aforementioned film -- especially for his Oscar red carpet "crime" against Ryan Seacrest.

Beyond his seemingly desperate ploys for attention in the name of "The Dictator" (in theaters Wednesday), what is Baron Cohen like in real life?

[Photos: 'The Dictator' movie stills and premiere shots]

Here are five things I discovered about the comedian-slash-writer-slash-actor that I didn't already know (and I hope you didn't either):

1. He studied history at Cambridge.
Yup, Sacha Baron Cohen is a smarty pants. And so is his family: His cousin Simon Baron-Cohen -- who apparently prefers his last name with the added dash -- is a Cambridge professor and well-known autism expert. At the world renowned British university, Baron Cohen was also a member of Footlights drama society and is said to have performed a mean Cyrano de Bergerac.

2. His brother scores.
...not like that! Baron Cohen's brother Erran is a composer and has scored original music for his brother's films "Borat" and "Brüno," and television show "Da Ali G Show."

3. He and Seth Rogen go way back.
One of Rogen's biggest breaks as a writer (yes, the "Knocked Up" star writes too) is when he worked on the last season of "Da Ali G Show" in 2004. That is where he met his writing partner Evan Goldberg ("Superbad," "Pineapple Express," "The Green Hornet") and was nominated for an Emmy. Rogen has said about the experience: "...I think we all looked up to Sacha so much that just being around him was stressful. Just his presence was kind of stressful at the time. Now it's just fun to see him. But he's intense."

4. The cops were after him.
The first few times Baron Cohen filmed his Ali G character -- around 1999 -- the cops got called, he has said. Once was after he jumped on and took over a tour bus, then later break-danced in a pub.  "I realized people would believe me when I did this character," he has said.

5. He goes to synagogue.
In spite of having played characters that are sexist, anti-Semitic and even murderers, Baron Cohen himself is a nice Jewish boy. While he is quick to say he's not a fully practicing Jew, he does go to synagogue a few times a year: "I'm very proud of my Jewish identity," he has said, adding that he tries to "keep kosher" (eating foods that adhere to Jewish Halakhic law).

Watch 'The Dictator' clips:

Clip: Helicopter Tour Clip: Monkey on Roller Skates

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