Jamie Foxx won an Oscar for his portrayal of Ray Charles back in 2004 and now another funnyman will bring a musical legend to life on the big screen – Sacha Baron Cohen has closed a deal to portray Freddie Mercury in an upcoming film about the musical group Queen.
The as-yet Untitled Queen Movie is being penned by Peter Morgan, who was responsible for scripting the Oscar-nominated pics The Queen (no connection) and Frost/Nixon, as well as next month’s Clint Eastwood-directed movie Hereafter. GK Films (The Town) will partner up Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal’s Tribeca Productions and Queen Films (no pun intended) to finance the project.
The film will chronicle the formation of the Mercury-led band Queen and culminates with the group’s appearance at Live Aid back in 1985 – which is generally regarded as one of the greatest live rock performances ever. It will not focus on Mercury’s tragic AIDS-related death in 1991.
Cohen demonstrated that he can actually sing in Tim Burton’s film version of the macabre musical Sweeney Todd back in 2007, although it is possible that his performance will be dubbed over with Mercury’s vocals. Ray Charles’ voice was considered too unique for Foxx to be able to properly imitate in Ray and the filmmakers behind the Queen movie might feel the same about Mercury – who Cohen does bear a physical resemblance to (see below).
While Cohen is best known for his comical performance art acts like Borat or Bruno, he is generally recognized as a solid acting talent. The role of Freddy Mercury could be a change of pace for the comedian and will allow him the opportunity to show off his dramatic performance chops.
Most films that revolve around a real-life music group tend to follow a strict narrative formula: the band is formed, its members find success and fame, let it get to their heads, and have a fall-out of sorts; the group thereafter either reunites in some form or its members move on to a better life. We shall have to wait and see if Morgan structures his screenplay for the Queen movie in the same vein, or goes for a less formulaic approach.
The Untitled Queen Movie is expected to begin production in 2011.