Sacha Baron Cohen Leaves Freddie Mercury Biopic

Published 2 years ago by

Freddie Mercury Sacha Baron Cohen Leaves Freddie Mercury Biopic

The wave of upcoming superhero movies threatens to drown out most other cinema news – at least during the summer blockbuster season. We’re in the thick of that now, but as fall arrives, so do the awards-bait prestige films, with deceased musicians having proven one of the most enduring roles for actors eager to show off their range.

It’s been a couple of years since the announcement that Borat star Sacha Baron Cohen would be portraying Freddie Mercury, the iconic frontman for the great 70’s rock band Queen, in a biopic to be scripted by Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon, the unrelated The Queen). Now, however, it seems that Baron Cohen has left the project, supposedly due to disagreements with the surviving Queen band members over the direction of the film.

Morgan’s story is said to follow the band through it’s formative years up to their famous Live Aid performance in 1985, which is still considered to be one of the greatest in rock & roll history. Mercury’s AIDS-related death in 1991 would apparently not be covered, and while the singer’s public acknowledgment that he had the disease (made just one day before his death) is said to have helped lift the stigma of AIDS from the public consciousness, his later days were not going to be the focus… Mercury’s homosexuality would presumably be glossed-over as well.

Sacha Baron Cohen in Les Miserables Sacha Baron Cohen Leaves Freddie Mercury Biopic

As reported by, Deadline a major reason for Cohen’s exit appears to be that while he wanted what sounds like an R-rated, warts-and-all approach to the story, the rest of the Queen –  Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon – wanted something PG in tone, thus allowing a broader appeal.

Since the band members have final approval over the script and director (no one had officially signed on, but names like David Fincher, Stephen Frears and – more recently, Tom Hooper – were brought in, only to walk right back out), it appears that Cohen was not able to reconcile his ideas (an exploration of Mercury’s flamboyant persona and lifestyle) with that of the rest of the band.

Anyone who has seen Borat, Bruno, or The Dictator knows that Sacha Baron Cohen is uniquely gifted at playing out-sized personalities with little regard for social niceties. His charisma – and physical resemblance – made him an ideal choice. Plus, we learned that he can really sing from his scene-stealing turn as a rival barber to Johnny Deep in Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, and he displayed real acting chops as the somewhat melancholy Station Inspector in Hugo.

With Jamie Foxx winning a Best Actor Oscar for his role as Ray Charles in Ray and Reese Witherspoon winning Best Actress for portraying Johnny Cash’s wife June Carter in Walk The Line, this could have been a ripe opportunity for Cohen to prove his own mettle in the awards arena. His turn as Freddie Mercury might have yielded something special, but now we’ll never know. Will this project ever leave the very early stages of pre-production? Will we end up with the safe, PG-version of this story no one outside of Queen seems to want? Expect news on this project to quickly sputter out if this remains the case.


Source: Deadline


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  1. Absolutely gutted to hear this!! Sacha would have been awesome as Freddie, we all know comedians make awesome dramatic actors to!

    Queen should have backed off and listened to someone that knows what they are doing!! Booooooooo

  2. I can understand them wanting an affectionate portrayal of their friend but by all accounts, Freddie’s bisexuality (including his marriage to his best friend/lover and encounters with a male friend at the same time, known to his wife the whole time) and his temper should be shown, as should other aspects of the man.

    It wouldn’t cause the public to deride him, it’d reaffirm their love of a charismatic and likeable guy who just happens to be one of the greatest singers and songwriters of all time.

    I hope they can work it out and bring Sacha back.


  4. The Band members really need to get Sacha back in this, the awareness of his sexuality, AIDS, and the cultural impact Freddie had NEEDS to be addressed in his BIOPIC. This is outrageous that these band member’s are so heavy handed in the scripts final say, and to be honest, there won’t ever be a PG version of Freddy’s life.. simply put, even Rock of Ages was PG-13, and even went on an edgy side…

    They need to think long and hard at who they just lost, he (Sasha) was, and will forever be the perfect casting choice to play the flamboyant, heavy-hearted, singing bohemth that is Freddy Mercury

    • Thing is, this news comes a month after Brian May promised to talk with The Mercury Estate after they ordered that a giant gorilla statue in Norwich (city in England for those who don’t know, the birthplace of Stephen Fry and Steve Coogan’s most famous character Alan Partridge, whose movie releases in early August) that was painted to look like Freddie be removed.

      Makes you wonder which of the band (or even if it was the band and not The Mercury Estate run by his family) made the request to tone the movie down.

      • If they really wanted to toned down, it wouldn’t be as effective as they could have it be.

        Everything about his life needs to be addressed, because they were world-changing events. Even if he told the press a day before his death about his aids, he’s still be living with it when he got it, and thus, it would have to be part of his story.

        It’s literally like having a Ray Charles film, and not addressing that he went blind.

        Bring Sasha back, Queen members, and make this film. R-Rated or not (PG-13 preferably, but R-Rated if they want something effective)

  5. Maybe this movie should stay in development hell. I am torn about it tbh. I agree with Sacha though, if you are going to do it, do it right.


  6. The band needs to realize that Mercury’s homosexuality and contracting of AIDS were a part of his life. The intent of the film is to tell the story one of the greatest rockstars that ever lived, not tarnish the reputation of a dead man. His sexuality is part of that story. If what may be one of the most important facts of Mercury’s life is glossed over or omitted entirely, the movie will lose some of its quality as a biopic.

    • Exactly. How in the world would one not address Freddie’s homosexuality in a biopic, and for what reasons would they want to anyhow? There is no way to tell his story as both one of the greatest triumphs in the history of human musical expression and pop culture, and at the same time a cautionary tale where the intersecting of living a hedonistic double life of excess, humanity’s own prejudices, and the world shoving their collective heads in the sand about a terrible terrible disease led directly to the loss of one of the great artistic figures of the 20th century.

      No amount of ‘warts and all’ can tarnish the legacy of Queen’s incredible musical catalogue, unmatchable skill as musicians, and Freddie’s own planet-sized personality. If any one person ever lived up to the word legend, it would be that man and his contribution to music.

      ps- Sad to see SB Cohen leave, but now that the Lone Ranger is a disastrous flop they should concentrate on getting the script perfect (not to mention encompassing), bring Johnny Depp on board instead and let him earn one well deserved and long overdue Oscar in memory of the great Freddie Mercury.

  7. Well, another potential good biopic film will sit in development hell. Was actually looking forward to this because I really enjoy these type of films. You can’t ignore all the aspects of Freddie’s life, including his sexuality and flamboyancy. Oh well I guess well just have to wait a little bit longer on this one right along with the long awaited Janis Joplin movie.

  8. He would have been great

  9. How can you make a PG rated version of such an iconic rock star who was going through anything but a PG life? I think fans would rather see the truth rather than a sugar coated version.

  10. Sacha Baron Cohen was perfect for this role, anybody else will fail in comparison

  11. I don’t like biopics. They usually tend to bore me. And I don’t see the point in obsessing over someone else life. But this one I wanted to see. SBC would’ve been amazing and this would’ve given the world to see a different side of Borat/Bruno. Too bad, so sad.

  12. Get that guy from Epic Rap Battles to play Freddie.

  13. What a shame. I doubt I’ll be watching this if Cohen isn’t in it.

  14. Unfortunately, as long as the rest of the band has the final say, there will be no Queen biopic.

  15. I have to agree with a previous poster as it was more than likely the Estate who wanted it toned down and not the Band members and it was just easier to blame them. A PG-13? Either way I still wouldn’t bother going and seeing this.


  17. I agree if someone wanted to see a glossed up version of Freddie Mercury they should make it a made for tv movie, but other than that. I want to see the true aspects of a person when I watch a biography. I understand the band mates want to protect his image and memory,but to leave out important details of his life would be a tremendous mistake. I want all of Freddie Mercury, the good, the bad and the truth! I hope they can come to some type of compromise or agreement.