Sacha Baron Cohen: Why He Left the Freddie Mercury Biopic


Oh, what could have been.

Sacha Baron Cohen was at one point close to starring as Queen frontman Freddie Mercury in a planned biopic. A variety of big names circled the project, including directors Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech) and Stephen Frears (The Queen), but nothing materialised. Cohen dropped of the project, with whispers at the time suggesting creative differences had stunted movement. Indeed.

Cohen has now revealed why he left the Freddie Mercury biopic, explaining that what the remaining Queen members had in mind was simply not in line with his ideas.

“There are amazing stories about Freddie Mercury. The guy was wild. He was living an extreme lifestyle [of] debauchery,” Cohen said during a recent interview on The Howard Stern Show. The other Queen members, he said, didn’t really want that kind of warts and all depiction.

“It [becomes] a less interesting movie, but you’ve got to remember that they want to protect their legacy as a band, and they want it to be about Queen. And I fully understand that.”

Cohen revealed that he had worked hard to get a project rolling that the remaining band members, Brian May and Roger Taylor, would appreciate. He brought on some seriously big names, to no avail.

“They asked me to write the movie, but I said, ‘I don’t know how to write a biopic.’ So I got in Peter Morgan [The Queen screenwriter], [but] they didn’t like that. I brought in David Fincher who wanted to direct it, then Tom Hooper —they were very specific about how they wanted to do it. But at the end of the day, it really was an artistic difference.”

That’s right, even Fincher was interested in taking a crack at Mercury’s story at one point. Ultimately, Cohen says he should’ve known things were not going to go well from the start. Why? How about realising these members want a Queen film that sees Mercury pass away half-way through?

“I should never have carried on because a member of the band —I won’t say who— said, ‘This is such a great movie, because such an amazing thing happens in the middle of the movie.’ I go, ‘What happens in the middle of the movie?’ He goes, ‘Freddie dies.’ I go, ‘So you mean it’s a bit like Pulp Fiction, where the end is the middle and the middle is the end? That’s interesting.’ He goes, ‘No no no.’ 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.’ And 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 [what happens to the band].”

It’s a shame to learn of the talent that came close to giving us a Freddie Mercury biopic, but the fact remains: May and Taylor do have all the right to ensure their film is delivered the way they see fit. Making a film with the real-life subjects closely involved can make for a hard road and an overall movie that’s slightly one-sided, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the project will be a failure. Take Straight Outta Compton, for example. Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and other key members in and surrounding N.W.A. helped bring to life a strong, successful picture that is, nevertheless, a bit of a vanity project.

Time will tell if the remaining Queen members manage to line up the right talent for the type of biopic they want to see.

Here’s the segment from The Howard Stern interview:

Source: The Playlist