Even though it feels like yesterday, it was six years ago that comedian and Freddie Mercury lookalike Sacha Baron Cohen signed on to play the iconic Freddie Mercury, front man of Queen, in a biopic. It had been years of false starts and hitting barriers, but there was at least hope with Baron Cohen in the role. However, he officially left the project in 2013 and the movie completely halted. No one knew why Baron Cohen quit, at least until today. He told Howard Stern in a new interview why he decided to walk away, as reported by Entertainment Weekly.
He said that he met with the surviving members of Queen, and they couldn't seem to see eye to eye on the project's tone. The band wanted a PG-rated look at the singer's legacy, while he wanted to tell it wholly. This would likely mean a grittier, R-rated movie that completely and fully explored Mercury and every side of him - drugs, sex, and rock 'n roll.
“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?” Baron Cohen said.
However, it wasn't only the tone and rating of the film that the band had opinions on. They also wanted in on determining the biopic's structure as well. Mercury died in 1991, when he was only 45, due to complications from AIDS. For any biopic, that would likely be the end of the film. However, the band wanted that to happen in the middle so that the ending could focus on how they continued after his death.
“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,’” Baron Cohen said.
Baron Cohen said that he was able to continue on for a while, even though he knew that he didn't really have the band's blessing. He even said that Frost/Nixon writer Peter Morgan was going to write the script and that David Fincher and Tom Hooper both wanted to direct. However, the differences were just too much to overcome.
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“The remaining members are still great musicians,” Baron Cohen added. “Brian May is an amazing musician; he wrote half their stuff. But he’s not a great movie producer.”