After several years of rumors, it has been confirmed that Sacha Baron Cohen, of Ali G InDaHouse and Borat fame, is working on a biopic of a real life figure. Not only will he write, produce and direct the film, but Cohen himself is slated to play Freddie Mercury, the larger-than-life front man of famous Arena and Glam rock band, Queen.
The movie project was said to be under development as early as 2010, but in 2013, an insider reported that the film was most likely not gonna happen, allegedly due to the actor, who is usually known for comedy and satire, not seeing eye to eye with the still-living members of Queen, who were granted technical advisory positions. Specifically, his vision for the project was as a profane and explicit tell-all biography of Mercury, whereas Queen sought to keep the darker and more sexual aspects of his life to a minimum in the film.
During the prolonged pre-production stage of the film, Cohen originally intended for English screenwriter and playwright, Peter Morgan, to be the writer and wanted David Fincher (of Fight Club and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo fame) and Tom Hooper (of Les Miserables fame) to serve as directors, but the band rejected all three. Queen’s manager, Jim Beach, has announced that Cohen and the band have worked out their conflicting ideas over the project and have given the green light to him writing, producing and directing the film, in addition to playing Mercury.
Similarly to when the film was initially announced to be under development, many people are perplexed by the choice of Cohen to play the famous rock singer. Even Brian May himself, lead guitarist of Queen and close friend of Mercury during his life, had his own reservations on the choice, believing that audiences would have difficulty separating the usually comedic actor from the role. As development of the film has picked back up, he has taken on a more supportive stance. Some have also noted that Cohen does bear a striking physical similarity to Mercury, his acting credits in non-comedic films, and that his comedic and over-the-top acting style could be used to his advantage when acting out the flamboyant personality of the latter.
While confirmed to be back in development, many details have yet to be released. After Cohen cited creative differences with Queen in the past, it is unknown what compromise the two parties have reached, which to some is especially jarring with the former now being at the screenwriting, direction, production and acting helm. One writer noted, “That is a lot of trust.” Beach and the members of Queen are both optimistic, however; being the ones who persuaded Cohen to take on all four roles for the making of the film.
A tentative release date or timeline for development was not discussed in Beach’s speech at the Artist and Management Awards in London on Thursday. It also remains unknown which studio will pick up the project. As Cohen readies himself to play Mercury, the film will also serve as his directorial debut.
By Philip Cunningham
Photo by: Phil Dowsing – Flickr License