Moviegoers know Jody Trautwein as the smiling Alabama pastor who tries to talk Sacha Baron Cohen's character out of being gay in the hit movie "Bruno." Trautwein is now auditioning for another role: Mayor of Birmingham.
Trautwein is among 14 candidates in next week's election to replace Larry Langford, who was booted from office in October after being convicted on 60 felony counts in a bribery scheme.
While the minister's scene drew laughter in theaters, he's running a serious campaign. He has a Web site, fliers, volunteers and a platform that includes fighting crime, improving city schools, economic expansion and restoring integrity to City Hall.
But political discussions inevitably begin with Trautwein's part in "Bruno," a spoof released this summer in which Cohen portrayed a gay Austrian fashion journalist traveling the United States.
"I haven't seen the movie," Trautwein, 39, said in an interview. "From what I understand it's about an hour and a half of darkness and perversion with about three minutes of light."
Trautwein said he was duped into appearing in the movie through phone calls from a producer and fake Internet sites set up by Cohen's cohorts. Trautwein believed he was helping a German TV crew telling the story of a man who wanted to give up homosexuality.
In the movie, Trautwein counsels "Bruno" to convert to heterosexuality by believing in Jesus.
"He wants to come into your heart right now," Trautwein says earnestly.
"Are you hitting on me?" Cohen deadpans.
No, Trautwein wasn't. But the segment helped the administrator and youth pastor at Point of Grace Church build a campaign profile.
Trautwein caught the attention of movie producers because of his former position as director of the Alabama Coalition Against Same-Sex Marriage. He's a conservative who describes himself as neither a Republican nor a Democrat.
Trautwein may be a longshot, but he said he's in the mayoral race to win even though he lacks the name recognition of candidates like Carole Smitherman, who served as interim mayor after Langford's ouster; William Bell, a member of the Jefferson County Commission; or Patrick Cooper, a lawyer who finished a distant second to Langford in 2007.
"We're going to run strong," said Trautwein, a Birmingham native who has worked in ministry for 14 years. "I believe we are going to surprise a lot of people."
The nonpartisan election is Tuesday, and a runoff will be held Jan. 19 if no candidate wins a majority of votes in the city, with an estimated population of about 210,000.
Langford is awaiting sentencing for taking some $236,000 in bribes in his former role as commission president in Jefferson County, Alabama's most populous region.
Evidence showed Langford - himself a professing Christian who leads a weekly Bible study - took checks and expensive gifts from an investment banker who received lucrative bond business from the county, which is now trying to avoid filing the largest municipal bankruptcy ever.