Sacha Baron Cohen to play Freddie Mercury in a biopic? You would think the stars would align perfectly for that. We can’t imagine a better choice to take on such an incredibly vivid and talented person’s life, especially considering how much they look alike. However, sadly, it wasn’t meant to be because in 2013 he quit the project over creative differences.
The famous comedian who is back in the US to promote his new controversial film, The Brother Grimsby, stopped into Howard Stern’s studio this week and spoke about what went wrong with the Freddie Mercury biopic he was set to star in.
He said that he wanted to do a true and honest depiction of Freddie Mercury’s life.
“There are amazing stories about Freddie Mercury… the guy was wild. He was living an extreme lifestyle – debauchery! There are stories of little people with plates of cocaine on their heads walking around parties.”
However, when the Queen band members became involved, Baron Cohen’s vision went out the door. The musicians were very concerned about how they would be seen as a band and as artists and did not want the focus to be on Mercury alone.
“You’ve got to remember, and I understand it – they are a band, they want to protect their legacy as a band… they want it to be about Queen. And I fully understand that.”
He continues: “[After] my first meeting, I should never have carried on, after a member of the band said ‘this is such a great movie because such an amazing thing happens in the middle of the movie’.”
“I ask what happens in the middle of the movie, and he says ‘Freddie dies’.”
“I go, ‘So you mean, it’s a bit like Pulp Fiction, the end is the middle and the middle is the end? That’s wild, that’s interesting.’”
“He goes ‘no no, normal movie’, so I said ‘wait a minute, what happens in the second half of the movie?’”
“And he said, ‘Well, we see how the band carries on from strength to strength’… I said, ‘Listen, not one person is going to see a movie where the lead character dies from AIDS, and then you carry on to see the band carry on!”
Baron Cohen added: “There’s a type of biography called hagiography – if you’re a king, you want your own history written. You want to be the guy who saved the world, and you don’t want it to be someone else saves the world. The problem is with any biopic… if you’re in control of your rights to your life story, why wouldn’t you depict yourself as great as possible?”
“At the end of the day,” the actor says, “it really was an artistic difference.”
Queen band members had previously said that Sacha Baron Cohen left the role because he wanted to make the movie too funny or that he was just too recognizable in life to play Mercury onscreen, but we happen to think that Cohen’s side of the story makes much more sense.