Sacha Baron Cohen On Why He Left The Freddie Mercury Biopic

Image: Joella Marano
Image: Joella Marano

By Mark Hodge (doddleNEWS)

Sacha Baron Cohen has revealed that “creative differences” with the band Queen led to his departure from the screen biopic of singer Freddie Mercury.

Speaking with radio host Howard Stern, while promoting his new comedy Brothers Grimsby, the Borat star shed light on the project which he worked on for several years. Baron Cohen insisted that the surviving members of the British group wanted a sugarcoated portrayal of the famous musician who died from an AIDS related illness in 1991.

“There are amazing stories about Freddie Mercury. The guy was wild. He was living an extreme lifestyle [of] debauchery. There are stories of little people with plates of cocaine on their heads walking around a party. 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. [After] my first meeting, 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].”

When Stern suggested that the band member in question was guitarist Brian May, Baron Cohen said he was an “amazing musician” but “not a great movie producer.”

freddie mercuryThe Bruno actor stated that he brought Frost/Nixon writer Peter Morgan on board to write a warts-and-all biopic, which would document the charismatic singer’s extraordinary life. Amazingly, Baron Cohen told Stern that A-list directors such as David Fincher (Fight Club) and Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech) were at different stages interested in helming the picture.

“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 , [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. Listen, at the end of the day, it really was an artistic difference.”

Following the Ali G comedian’s departure from the project, Spectre star Ben Whishaw has been cast as Mercury and writer Anthony McCarten (The Theory of Everything) has been hired to write a new screenplay.

It’s too early to write off the new incarnation completely – but Baron Cohen’s revelations are astonishing and disappointing in equal measure.

Stay tuned for more Freddie Mercury biopic news.

Hat Tip: /Film 

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