Despite his goofy and sometimes grotesque turns as Borat, Bruno, and now as Nobby in The Brothers Grimsby, Sacha Baron Cohen's ill-fated Freddie Mercury biopic seemed like it would actually be the gritty, serious depiction of the legendary singer's life that he deserved.
Unfortunately we will never get to see the actor, who bears an uncanny resemblance to the late Mercury, in the role as he walked away from the project in 2013, citing "creative differences." The news was especially disappointing as talks of the project, with Baron Cohen in the lead role, had been going on since 2007.
Although it has been almost three years since he left it behind, Baron Cohen spoke to Howard Stern recently to give a more in-depth explanation as to why the biopic never panned out. When Stern brought up how "Queen wanted to clean it up and you wanted to get into the nitty gritty, right?" Baron Cohen explained how their visions of the film were far too different to work together.
Refusing to name names, Baron Cohen says that a member of the band (Stern immediately assumes it's Brian May) told him in one of their first meetings that an "amazing thing happens in the middle of the movie," and revealed that they wanted Mercury's death to occur midway through the film. Baron Cohen's response:
I go 'oh right, so you mean it's a bit like Pulp Fiction? Like, the end is the middle, the middle is the end.' I go, 'alright, that's really, that's a wild movie. Alright, that's interesting, I never thought about it that way.' He goes 'oh no, normal movie...' So I said, 'Wait a minute, what happens in the second half of the movie?' And he said, 'Well, you know, we see how the band carries on from strength to strength.'
Although this was all spelled out in their first meeting together, Baron Cohen stayed attached to the project for six years before he finally cut ties with the production. However, he was careful not to speak badly of the band or the failed biopic, saying that he understood their reasons for wanting to see the biopic play out a certain way.
They are a band. They wanna protect their legacy as a band. They want it to be about Queen and I fully understand that ... If you're in control of your right of your life story ... why wouldn't you depict yourself as great as possible? Why wouldn't you?
However he did have some advice for the band, telling Stern that he told the group that "not one person is going to see a movie where the lead character dies from AIDS and then you ... see the band carry on..."
Unfortunately we may never see Baron Cohen in the lead role of a Freddie Mercury film, which means we'll probably never get to see a biopic with "little people with plates with cocaine on their heads walking around," which would have been the case had the Borat star remained with the project.
Sounds like the other members of Queen were putting Baron Cohen 'under pressure'.
You can listen to the full conversation here: