In September 2010 it was announced that British comic actor Sacha Baron Cohen, best known for his small screen creations Ali G and Borat, had been cast in the role of legendary Queen frontman Freddie Mercury in a proposed biopic on the late singer, based on a screenplay by Peter Morgan who, ironically, had also scripted the 2006 drama The Queen. While the project has remained in the early stages of development, Baron Cohen appeared in Martin Scorsese’s classic fantasy Hugo, the satire The Dictator and the the Academy Award-nominee Les Misérables, leaving the Queen biopic on the back burner.
In an interview last year with Collider, producer Graham King said, “You know, Freddie’s got such a distinctive voice. Sacha sang Sweeney Todd. That was his voice. And he’s got a fantastic voice as well. We haven’t quite put them together yet to see the match.” Baron Cohen’s musical career has gone beyond that of Tim Burton’s 2007 musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, providing his vocals on songs for Ali G Indahouse and Les Misérables.
Deadline, who first announced the project in 2010, have revealed that Baron Cohen has now backed out of the role due to creative differences with members of Queen. The site reports that, while Baron Cohen hoped for a “gritty, R-rated tell-all centred around the gifted gay singer,” the surviving members of the group intend on producing a PG movie. Mercury’s bandmates, Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon, allegedly have script approval and final say on directors, with potential candidates including The Social Network‘s David Fincher.
Talking last December with Access Hollywood, Baron Cohen discussed how he had prepared for taking on the iconic role; “I’ve become a homosexual, and I am living with a man at the moment. And it’s a challenge at the beginning, it made my eyes water, but now it’s fine, I’m getting used to it. And I’m also trying to lose six inches for the role.” Mercury, born Farrokh Bulsara in Zanzibar, passed away on 24 November 1991 at the age of forty-five, less than a year after his final album with the band, Innuendo.