As Sacha Baron Cohen’s roles diversify, so do his box office numbers. The comic actor known best for his Da Ali G Show characters and their respective films has enjoyed a number supporting roles throughout his career, often to public celebration. However, Cohen’s newest starring feature, The Dictator, doesn’t look to match the success of some of his past projects. The Dictator opened on Wednesday, May 18; the film earned a mild gross, and raked in just $17 million at the weekend box office, a number much lower than Borat and Brüno‘s opening weekend grosses. This raises the question: does Cohen work better as a supporting player than as a lead?
The actor’s three biggest box office intakes came from three films in which he played smaller parts. His first feature film role, 2005’s Madagascar, earned $47.2 million in its opening weekend, and $193.2 million overall, domestically. In 2008, Cohen reprised his role as King Julien the lemur in the sequel, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, which earned $63.1 million in its opening weekend and $180.1 million overall, domestically. The 2006 Will Ferrell film Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby featured Cohen in a supporting role as French racecar driver Jean Girard. The film grossed $47 million in its opening weekend, and $148.2 million overall, domestically.
Crunching the numbers, Cohen’s own comedic endeavors in which he starred earn substantially less than his films in which he costars. His first was 2006’s Borat, which grossed $26.5 million in its opening weekend, and $128.5 million overall, domestically. His followup, 2009’s Brüno, earned $30.6 million in its opening weekend, and only $59.9 million overall, domestically. However, Cohen’s most meager financial performances came attached to films wherein he strayed from his “mainstream comedy” identity. The offbeat musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, grossed only $9.3 million in its opening weekend, and only $52.8 million overall, domestically. The Oscar-winning Hugo earned $11.3 million in its opening weekend, and $73.8 million overall, domestically.
It is never easy to determine what a relatively new actor’s most successful course might be. However, judging from these performances, it seems that Cohen fares best in supporting comedic roles. If this pattern continues, fans are bound to see a diverse end of 2012 for Cohen, what with Madagascar 3 and Les Misérables on the horizon.