People who looked on in disbelief at the antics of Mark Francois may have suspected it all along.
The ridiculous posturing and pomposity; the bulging eyes, the puffed-up face matched only by his puffed-up pride. The pink, flushing gammon cheeks, the furrowed brow and the beady eyes; the cliché stocky bull dog build. Yes, it’s obvious with hindsight, the make-up and prosthetics were just a little too good to be real.
And then there was the catch phrases like ‘Perfidious Albion’ and ‘Up Yours Philip Hammond’ or ‘Father forgive them for they know not what they do’. Just a little too ridiculous for people to fully accept yet…perhaps credible enough to prevent us dismissing them completely as fake.
The result was a brilliant theatrical creation leaving us not quite sure whether Mark Francois was real or just a caricature. Now Scoop Alley can exclusively reveal that ‘The Right Honourable Mark Francois’ is in fact just one of several comedy characters created by Sacha Baron Cohen for his new TV series.
Cohen, famous for parodies like Ali G and Borat is currently working on a follow-up to his successful show, Who is America, in which he created a series of characters to dupe politicians and celebrities into making fools of themselves.
Now he’s using the same techniques to turn the spotlight on the absurdities of life in his home country with a new series, Who is Brexit Britain?
Cohen is understandably reluctant to give away too much about the new show and refused to speak to us for fear of putting potential targets of his satire on guard. However, it’s understood he was intrigued by the number of farcical people who suddenly found themselves in the spotlight because of the Brexit campaign.
Cohen told close friends: “I looked at people like Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and Jacob Rees Mogg and thought, these people are far more ridiculous than any character I’ve ever created. I wanted to see if I could up my game, so I created Mark Francois. At first I was afraid that no one would believe he was real because he’s so over the top, but I seem to have got away with it.”
We caught up with ‘Mark Francois’ as Cohen was filming scenes around the Houses of Parliament in London. When we approached Francois for a quote, Cohen had the presence of mind and consummate professionalism to respond to us in character.
“Up yours,” screamed ‘Francois’. “Be gone you perfidious traitors. I’ll fight you on the beaches…never have so many owed so much to me…this is my finest hour.”
Sacha Baron Cohen refused to answer questions about whether Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees Mogg are also among his parody creations but was seen to have a wry, enigmatic smile by those around him. Scoop Alley will continue to investigate.
Meanwhile, here’s a clip of Sacha Baron Cohen completely duping BBC News as ‘Mark Francois’