Sacha Baron Cohen was signed on to portray the late Freddie Mercury in a Queen biopic, but in 2013 he dropped out of the project.
The surviving Queen members weren’t keen on the actor’s vision. Baron Cohen saw the picture as an R-rated retelling of their story, tapping into the wild side of rock and roll, reports Entertainment Weekly.
Baron Cohen talked to Howard Stern on Stern’s radio show, saying, “The problem is, and I think it’s with any biopic, and I fully understand why Queen wanted to do this, if you’re in control of your rights and your life story, why wouldn’t you depict yourself as great as possible?”
People may think of characters like Borat or Ali G when Baron Cohen’s name comes up. But the actor planned to play the role of Mercury seriously. Stern breaks down the actor’s intent, saying, “The vibe I get is, you wanted an edgy, gritty, deal with the sexuality of Freddie Mercury, not to goof on it, you wanted to play it straight, right?.” Baron Cohen agreed with Stern’s assessment, wanting to tell the story with “warts and all.”
The actor worked on the project for six years, but the band wanted a PG-rated story, and the project fell apart.
The band also saw the story rolling out differently, with Mercury’s 1991 death from complications from AIDS happening in the middle of the film, and the ending focusing on the band continuing without him.
Baron Cohen didn’t see audiences’ interest going past the loss of Mercury, telling Stern, “I said, ‘Listen, not one person is going to see a movie where the lead character dies from AIDS and then you see the band carry on.'”
The actor has no problem with the band members as musicians but sticks to his guns in terms of creative differences, saying, “Brian May is an amazing musician; he wrote half their stuff. But he’s not a great movie producer.”
Since Baron Cohen’s departure, there’s been talk of American Idol’s Adam Lambert taking on the role, followed by the possibility of Ben Whishaw portraying Mercury, but there’s no concrete evidence the role has been cast.
It sounds like the project is at a standstill now and considered “in development.”
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