Remember that scene in Brüno when Sacha Baron Cohen is auditioning babies for an increasingly ridiculous and degrading photoshoot and the attention-starved parents agree to feature their child in anything (“We have chosen your baby to be dressed as an N— Officer, pushing a wheelbarrow, with a Jewish baby, into an oven!”)? Young women who auditioned for a movie titled May the Best Man Win in South Central Los Angeles ended up doing the very same thing, and similar to the photoshoot in Brüno it was all a prank.
According to The Los Angeles Times, about thirty young women auditioning for the film were “asked to perform in blackface, others to impersonate Adolf Hitler and shout propaganda.” However, while it might have all seemed to be an elaborate prank, May the Best Man Win is a real film — the summary on IMDb gives the plot summary as, “Two lifelong best friends, obsessed with making Youtube-style prank videos, become mortal enemies when they both fall for the same girl and enter into a series of dangerous and bizarre challenges in order to win her favor.” That seems right in line with the content of the unorthodox audition — it’s just that the actresses didn’t realize their auditions were really being filmed for the movie itself.
The company behind the audition was London-based What If It Barks Films, which features veterans of reality TV programming. Lee Hupfield, who co-wrote and is producing the film, produced Big Brother: UK and another co-writer and producer, Andrew O’Connor, is managing director of a UK reality television company. And yes, there is a Sacha Baron Cohen connection — executive producer Andrew Newman served as a “consultant” for the Borat movie and Da Ali G Show.
One of the actresses, Katey Zouck, admits that while she was suspicious she didn’t realize it was a prank at first. She explains, “I’m here and my job as an actor is to take what I’m given, make it real for myself and justify the words, no matter how crazy I may judge them to be.” However, the actresses soon began to realize that everyone auditioning had different parts and were told they were auditioning for different types of films (some were told the audition was a for a drama, others a comedy). When asked what was going on Zouck did not get a straight answer until an associate producer let her in on the prank. She expressed her anger at the prank by telling the Times, “Every day as unknown working actors, we go to these cattle calls, and take time off work, but that’s not what is upsetting. “What is upsetting is that we did all that and it turned out they were making fun of us. I felt like an idiot actress. I felt violated.”
The actress who portrayed Hitler in her audition (who spoke anonymously for fear of legal action) reveals, “I did feel ambushed. I had sat in the holding room for three hours, so I had a choice now to either go in there and be filmed doing something that’s potentially pretty uncomfortable, or I could go home just having wasted half my day.”
Ray Marshall, producer and co-founder of What If It Barks Films, claims that no actress was forced to do anything that she didn’t feel comfortable with, saying, “Quite a few of those girls were more than happy to be involved, and we have some fantastic footage from them. Whether we are officers of good taste or bad taste is neither here nor there — it’s the style of an edgy comedy. It’s intended to be funny.”
Oliver Obst, another executive producer (how many of these does the movie have?) also defended the “audition,” adding, “Someone was nominated for an Oscar for playing Hitler. So I don’t see what the issue is… Our script calls for our main character to pull pranks that are far, far worse than what happened with the actresses.”
The actresses who were pranked were given $50 “for their participation and willingness to have their footage used in the film.” As in the case of those whom were pranked in Brüno and Borat, they have little legal leg to stand on because of the agreements they signed.