Do Not Mess With Universal: Bruno Bingo Hall Edition

Bruno300.jpgBack in 2007, during the filming of Bruno, Sacha Baron Cohen and his film crew stormed a California bingo hall. They asked the unsuspecting patrons to sign Standard Consent Agreements, alleged that they were filming a "documentary-style film," and then Bruno was invited on stage to call numbers. Only instead of just calling numbers, the flamboyant Austrian character related each digit to a milestone in his relationship with a former gay partner -- a showy extreme that ended in tears, a call to the paramedics, security officers forcibly removing Cohen, a "brain bleed" and a lawsuit against NBC Universal, that we learn today, the studio has won.

Richelle Olson and her husband sued Cohen, NBC Universal and other production companies related to the project in 2009 alleging that Cohen's bingo parlor stunt -- which never made it into the film's final cut -- resulted in a scuffle that led to serious injuries.

Shortly after the Olsons filed their lawsuit, Universal countered with their own letter stating that the altercation cited never took place, submitting 28 minutes of unedited footage to court. A footnote in the most recent appeals court decision makes the bingo scene sound very amusing.

After Cohen called out the Bingo number 36, he states that "36" was the age of his former male partner. Later, when he calls out the number 3, he says that his former partner's birthday was "May 3." When he later calls out the number 59, he remarks that 59 was the number of his hotel room he stayed in when he met his former partner, and a few minutes later when he announces number 42, Cohen offers that "42 inches was his partner's chest size. Finally, after Cohen announces the number 7, he comments that he met his partner on "July 7." Some members of the audience can be heard laughing after each comment."

The Hollywood Reporter pieced together more of the events that transpired that night.

As Cohen continued making comments, Olson became alarmed at the vulgarity and concerned for the other Bingo players. So she approached the stage area and told Cohen to stop. Cohen asks why he can't continue and why she's being so rude, and Olson responds by polling the audience whether they wanted him or Olson to continue with the number-calling. The audience chose Olson.

As security officers escorted Cohen and his crew to the exit, Richelle Olson announced to the audience: "I will not have anyone make a mockery of this bingo hall."

Later, Olson left the stage to calm herself down, where, sobbing uncontrollably, she lost consciousness, hitting her head into the concrete floor. Paramedics took her away, and she says she was diagnosed with two brain bleeds and has been in a wheelchair and walker ever since.

First off, a slow clap for Olson for actually saying the words, "I will not have anyone make a mockery of this bingo hall." Any bingo hall would be lucky to have a player as staunchly protective of her board game environment as Richelle Olson.

Sadly for Olson and her husband though, both a lower court and an appeals court have sided with Universal on this matter, agreeing that Cohen's stunt was protected by the First Amendment.

This decision means that in addition to the lawsuit being thrown out, Olson will have to pay money for its legal fees. They can take your hard-earned bingo winnings, Olson family, but they can never take your pride. Or your dauber.

· Universal Wins 'Bruno' Lawsuit Over Woman Injured in Bingo Hall [THR]


  • Scott says:

    This was a crazy lawsuit and one that Olson probably expected to get away with. I don't overly respect what Baron Cohen did with this film, apart from a couple of vulgarly funny parts, but this bingo hall stunt was never going to be Universal's downfall. I really do hope Olson can win enough playing Bingo to pay the legal fees!

  • Phil says:

    Seriously that is a little off key! Its hard to lose court battles like this nowadays, but Olson was pushing it from the start...hit her head after sobbing outburst later on? Hmmm! SBC I like, he pushes the envelope, too far, too often perhaps, but the man makes me smile all the same.