Sacha Baron Cohen pulls out of Freddie Mercury bio-pic: who could replace him?!

Just on a superficial level, I find Sacha Baron Cohen attractive. He’s tall, he’s handsome, he has warm, intelligent eyes. But then there’s his personality… while some people might admire his genius and leave it at that (and truly, I believe he probably is a genius), there’s something very tightly-wound about Sacha that is a turn-off for me. He seems like he makes everything about HIM. Everything is his way. Everything must be done according to his instructions, no compromises, no collaborations. It seems like his marriage (to Isla Fisher) is that way too, but what do I know.

Anyway, Sacha has been attached to a Freddie Mercury bio-pic for a while. Again, superficially, this is a great fit. Sacha LOOKS so much like Freddie Mercury and I have no problem believing that Sacha could legitimately pull off Freddie’s physicality and his stage persona, as well as Freddie’s pathos. But! Sacha wanted the film to be one way, and the remaining members of Queen wanted it another way. So, long story short, Sacha is out.

Sacha Baron Cohen is just not seeing eye to eye with the remaining members of Queen who have script and director approval over that biopic on iconic lead singer Freddie Mercury.

That film had Cohen circling the role but I’ve just learned he’s now pulled out. The reason is that the band wanted to make more of a PG movie about Queen while Cohen was counting on a gritty R-rated tell-all centered around the gifted gay singer.

Given the astonishing physical resemblance, it’s hard to imagine anyone else playing Freddie but Sacha. Cohen had brought in Peter Morgan to write and various directors including David Fincher and Tom Hooper to develop the project for himself. However, none were approved by the band.

Film is set at Sony Pictures and GK Films and Cohen has long been attached to play Mercury. But because of the dispute over ‘creative differences’ no formal offer could go out to Hooper who’d just worked with Sacha on Best Picture Oscar nominee Les Miserables. Graham King and Tim Headington are producing with Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal and Queen Films.

[From Deadline]

My take is that this project is probably going to die a slow death now that Sacha has exited. I just don’t see how they could find any other actor who could play Mercury the same way or better. So, did the band tell Sacha to take a hike or was this a case of Sacha not being able to play well with others and join a collaborative process?

Photos courtesy of WENN.

 

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106 Responses to “Sacha Baron Cohen pulls out of Freddie Mercury bio-pic: who could replace him?!”

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  1. Eleonor says:

    Oooh my I miss Freddy so much: I miss his performances , his charisma, his voice… :(

  2. DanaG says:

    I don’t think Sascha could have played Freddy Mercury. Freddy had a real wit about him and was so talented and yet tormented. Sascha would have made him a cartoon character and Freddy deserves better. I think Queen could find someone maybe an unknown or something. My guess is Sascha couldn’t get his way it is well known he doesn’t play well with others it’s why he does his own movies which of course star him and no one else it seems. I hope they still do this movie I loved Freddy such a talented guy and Queen is still one of the most amazing bands.

  3. GiGi says:

    The remaining members wanted to make a PG movie about Queen? FFS, why? For their legion of underage fans?

    Too bad – I was looking forward to this. I suppose there probably won’t be a movie made without Queen’s involvement due to licensing issues – but they should really have let this go forward as an R rated film!

  4. T.Fanty says:

    I hope it does kind of die now. I personally don’t think the film needed to be made. Mercury was one of those people who was perfect as a showman. We don’t need the other side.

  5. Soapboxpudding says:

    I didn’t know about it til now…this makes me so sad. He is PERFECT for the part.

  6. TheOneAndOnlyOnly says:

    No One; Queen is one of the top five bands period; and Freddie is generally considered,maybe, the best front man ever; if you even go on Youtube (Queen like all the greats from the 60/70s is all over youtube), the videos are live performances, not stuped music vids – like all the great bands of that era, Queen was better live than a hundred generic bands of today are with all the studio engineering and pro tools.
    I’ll skip the movie and just listen to my Queen cds.
    That’s all I need,bands like Queen don’t need social media and wraparound marketing to keep their music alive.

  7. Lizzie says:

    He has to have left because he wanted to portray the parts of Mercurys life that were obviously not PG.
    Which is a pity, because if the film isn’t being made because of anything to with AIDS or his homosexuality, then it’s just proving that nothing is changing in film.

    • LAK says:

      Firstly, why does it have to be about his homosexuality? Freddie was bigger than that. His genius had nothing to do with his sexual preferences, and i am not saying that to diminish homosexuality. Freddie never hid his homosexuality, but neither was it the point of him.

      Further, AIDS was such a stigma then, that it wasn’t given out that he had it until about a week before his death, so a film that explores the 2 least interesting aspects of Freddie, the later of which only became a problem in the last sliver of his life, is not interesting at all.

      • aims says:

        He never addressed his sexuality, he was who he was. He was a brilliant musician and showman. He was so much more than the last few years of his life.

      • LAK says:

        aims – exactly.

        And on a personal note, he is from my part of the world – old and new so yea!!! representing!.

      • Lilly says:

        I completely disagree with LAK. Aside from the fact that a persons sexuality is a fundamental part of who they are and shouldnt be brushed under a carpet because it makes others uncomfortable, it would be impossible to depict his relationships with his family and his wife without mentioning the homosexuality. His relationship with his ex wife would especially be under served. She was the first person he came out to and even though they divorced, it was she who nursed him in his final days. And ofcourse he left everything to her. Also remember he was Indian, a film that doesnt explore the cultural implications to his coming out, is a dishonest depiction.

        I think the film LAK is describing is more a discography than a biopic. Music was only a part of who he was.

      • mia girl says:

        @LAK “His genius had nothing to do with his sexual preferences, and i am not saying that to diminish homosexuality.”
        THIS!

        @aims “He was so much more than the last few years of his life.”
        AND THIS!

        In my opinion, to have a film place major focus on these aspects of his life might be worthy Oscar bait for Cohen and might shine a new light on the struggles that many homosexuals had to encounter… but to primarily focus on this would not truly reveal the complexity of what made Freddie so very unique and special. I think that is what the film should explore, the genuis that he was.

        Sure these are aspects of his life that should be part of the movie, they were part of his complexity… but I’d love to also see his origin story and how all the pieces of him went about contributing to the artist that was Freddie Mercury. One of the best performance artists of modern time.

      • Mia says:

        @Lilly- I agree 100%. Why would they bother to do a biopic if they weren’t going to cover his personal life. The same way his homosexuality didn’t completely define him as a person, is the same reason his music didn’t define him as a person. Creating music was what he did, it wasn’t who he was. He was a well rounded, interesting person with a fascinating life that deserves to be explored.

      • LAK says:

        Lilly – That is pure projection on your part. Not every artist is tortured even when the times call for it. Many journalists throughout his lifetime commented on the fact that he wasn’t tortured by it nor was he ashamed of it. His attitude was more ‘so what?’ There are great many documentaries/biographies about his life, not controlled by Queen, where every aspect of his life is explored. All this tortured artist business is pure projection.

        A man who has the balls to call his band Queen in 1970 [yes he picked it] whilst knowing the associations and dressing in an overtly stereotypical gay fashion isn’t afraid of who he is.

        If he was tortured at all, it was at the hands of media trying to find out if he had AIDS in his final 3yrs. He was routinely stalked by paps who wanted to catch him out in this diagnosis. He denied it to the press, but all his band mates and intimates have said he was upfront about it to all of them in private.

        His relationship with Mary was rock solid for the 20+ years they knew each other and survived any and all lovers they both took which is shown by the fact that he left her most of his estate, was godfather to her son. Not out of guilt, but love. No chism when he came out to her which was pretty early in their decades long relationship. He was very public about his love/trust for her which wasn’t just words and promises, and she willingly looked after him when he became ill.

        The music was his passion and legacy. He was formally trained from a very young age [7], taking influences from Bollywood as well as the west, famously Little Richard. He started performing in bands when he was 12yrs old and never stopped playing or learning about it or improving his style and stretching himself. He played several instruments, his vocal was astonishing and he was a superlative stage performer.

        As for his family, he spent the bulk of it with his aunts and grandmother in India followed by boarding school at age 8 through to 17 before finishing up at art school in England. He probably spent 10yrs total of his entire life with his parents.

        Further, his parents probably had bigger things to worry about like being thrown out of Zanzibar due to the Zanzibar revolution and having to start over in England.

        The man was a genuis. end of. The fact that he was gay is irrelevant since it didn’t inform his life choices. As he said himself,’So what?’

      • Lilly says:

        Thats a remarkably rehash of Wikipedea LAK. But its great that you arent denying that his personal life was fascinating. From the ex wife who stuck by him in spite of the lie that was their marriage to the conservative background of his family. Thats where the story is. If you just want to hear the Record Label version then perhaps videos of his concerts would be better.

    • L says:

      I don’t know if the entire film needs to be about his disease or lifestyle-but at the very least Freddie partied hard with booze and drugs and leaving that out whitewashing what being a rock star was like in the 70s/80s

  8. Birdie says:

    I was so excited that he would play Freddie! There goes his Oscar.

    Maybe Jonathan Rhys-Meyers as a replacement?

  9. smee says:

    That’s too bad – he would have been perfect in that role. Russell Brand might make a good Freddie……

  10. Lindy says:

    There’s always Adam Lambert, who can act – he’s done theater – and sing.

  11. Queenfreddie says:

    I never thought he was perfect for the part and I’m kinda glad he backed out. But I really don’t know who could play Freddie. Freddie was one of a kind. Of course that’s and actors job to (but I see SBC as more of a comedian than an actor) so I didn’t want him to mock Freddie with an over the top performance.

    • Alexis says:

      Some comedians can act quite well. To do Freddie properly an actor must be comfortable with theatrics and using his body. That makes character actors and physical comedians a good fit for the role IMO. And I’m a big queen fan. It will be a difficult role to do right. FM was one of those distinct larger than life personalities. Like Prince or David Bowie, and those guys don’t even have biopics. I’m reminded of I’m not there when they just didn’t cast one bob and just went for his aura.

      • Queenfreddie says:

        I agree with you that comedians can be really great actors (like drama actors can do comedy) and I like SBC a lot actually but I see him more as a character actor. Which is great but can be a flaw. Its just Freddie was a Real Guy. And I just worried if the movie got made (with him in the role) he would do it as more of a shtick. Or over the top performance. Then again he could have surprised me.

  12. bella bella says:

    My personal crush, Bobby Carnavale, could be a good fit. Love him.

  13. Gee says:

    I am so upset! I was so looking forward to this and to SBC as Freddie.

  14. LAK says:

    i don’t understand why casting has to be so literal. It isn’t documentary.

    I love Angela Bassett. looks nothing like Tina Turner, who i adore too – side note Tina married her toy boy last week [57 to her 73 so that qualifies, no?].

    Ditto Michael Douglas/Liberace, Jonathan Rhys Meyers/Elvis, Jamie Fox/Ray Charles, Laurence Fishburne/Ike Turner…the list is long and endless of people who look nothing like the real life characters they portray, but do a brilliant job of it.

    It only becomes a problem if they don’t capture the essence of the character, the story being told is very poorly constructed etc.

    For same reasons i will not dump on Zoe Saldana until i see the film. If she does a good job, huzzah as far as i am concerned.

    • Lindy says:

      You make a very good point.

    • Tiffany :) says:

      Wow, LAK, I love this comment of yours!

      I don’t understand when people get outraged when an actor doesn’t look 100% like the person they are portraying (like Naomi Watts and Princess Diana). I think it matters far more that they get the vibe, as you said, the essence of the person.

      When people demand carbon copies visually, they might end up with a face that matches but with a performer that can’t act. When portraying real people, it is far more important to me that they get their personality right.

  15. cutelittlehappything says:

    Noel Fielding could do it, just on looks.

  16. Lilly says:

    Imma cyber slap the first Cumberfan to propose Bennedict Cumberbatch. Oh, who am I kidding, Cumbs has probably already been cast. The Lizard king invasion is unstoppable.

  17. aims says:

    Freddie was a brilliant man. Musically, the way he delivered a song was like no other. His showmanship was brilliant, the connection he had with his audience was powerful. I adore Freddie down to my soul. That said, he was also a very complicated man, and very extreme. A force on stage, and an incredibly shy and quite man privately. I’m glad they’re walking a way from this.They’re are some things better left unsaid. Freddie deserves an honest movie about himself, told in an honest way, I’m not sure they’re there yet.

  18. Wilma says:

    I’m not sure if SBC has the acting chops to pull of the Freddy biopic he envisioned, but I find it sad that the remaining bandmembers wanted to do a PG/feel good movie. So not interested in that! Then again, Freddy was an intensely private person. No need to break his privacy now.

  19. Alexis says:

    Jim Carrey? He doesn’t look like FM, but I suspect he could pull it off. And he’s a good non comic actor, for those who haven’t seen eternal sunshine or Truman. Looking like the person the biopic is about is overrated. Angela Bassett looks nothing like Tina Turner, and her performance in a biopic was quite acclaimed.

  20. Cats says:

    To be fair to Sacha Baron Cohen there is a huge difference between an accurate bio-pic of Freddie Mercury and a PG film about Queen. I can understand why he wouldn’t be interested in a PG film about Queen. Who would? There are plenty of really good live videos of their performances if that’s what you want.

    • Londerland says:

      It does beg the question of what story the surviving members want to tell. Any honest biopic would be knee-deep in debauchery. Not just Freddie – from what I’ve read, the whole band and especially Roger Taylor were sluttin’ it up in the 70s, hoovering all the drugs in sight and shagging everything that moved.

      So it may be that they’re all older, wiser, establishment figures, and want it to be a loving tribute to Freddie – they may feel the seedy stuff has been raked over by the press enough already.

      But the sad fact is, nobody would want to see a cleaned-up, PG life-of-Freddie. Or of anyone else for that matter. Who leads a PG life?! They may as well make a movie version of their crappy musical, or tour with a Freddie hologram, if all they want is to remember their friend.

  21. Tig says:

    It will be interesting to see who they can get if the band has this much say- is there even a script? Doesn’t sound like there is. I think SBC would have been great- so good luck to them moving on.

  22. Lucy says:

    What about Mika? His singing always kind of reminds me of Freddie.

  23. The Original G says:

    Someone refresh my memory about any straight role that SBC has played.

    I could see Russell Brand doing this. Is there an audience for this right now?

  24. Aud says:

    Who can replace him?
    Sorry, but I don’t think anyone can play Mercury and do him justice.
    Why repeat the Val Kilmer/Jim Morrison cock up all over again?
    Anyway, I don’t think the rest of Queen are really ‘PG” or PC, but maybe Cohen draws the line at playing gay characters? And to play Mercury, he’d have to depict Mercury as he was, not sugar coat it.
    This depiction, if it includes Mercury post HIV, right up to his death, would also demand a physical transformation for the lead actor, i.e. significant weight loss.

    • Just So says:

      Cohen played a gay character in Talledaga Nights and kissed Will Ferrell on the lips. I don’t think he has a problem with gay.

      Also, have you seen Borat? That character wasn’t gay, but I doubt even an R-rated version of Mercury’s life could be any more over the top than that was.

  25. Viggo says:

    I think the British singer Mika would be a great replacement, he reminds me a lot of Freddie. I think a PG-13 movie about Queen wouldn’t do Freddie any justice because a lot of fans are curious about his personal life especially in relation to those amazing songs.

  26. chaine says:

    I want to suggest Tom Hardy, but I don’t see how they’ll get any of these famous name actors that take themselves so seriously to buy in if what the band wants is a PG family friendly movie. They will end up casting a Brit TV actor that is wanting to transition to movie roles, or a pop singer with no acting experience.

  27. Legal Annie says:

    I say that actor Tim Curry could play him well.

  28. toto says:

    Russell Brand could play him easily, i love Freddy so much ..i don’t see SBC do him justice.

  29. gg says:

    Oh nooo, I was looking forward to that. He almost has the teeth too and looks quite a lot like Freddie.

    There is no way to play a sanitized version of Freddie. For it to be any good it’s got to be all or none.

  30. K says:

    I’d rather watch a documentary about Queen than a biopic.I do think SBC would have done the part justice, though.

  31. Mayday says:

    yeah, make a pg movie about someone who didn’t lead a pg life.

    what a disappointment, i was really looking forward to this.

  32. Sandy says:

    My immediate thought was Jonathan Rhys Meyers. He’s more handsome, of course, but sort of looks the part. He’s thin, he can definitely sing, is a great actor and knows how to be flamboyant.

  33. eva says:

    Am I missing something, the only thing that anyone wouldhave to get the rights for would be the music and videos and band name of Queen, right? I admit it would be hard to do the biopic without rights to the music and using the band name of Queen, but it could be done. I don’t believe the remaining band members can license his life story and likeness. (ie stop anyone from writing a book or making a movie on Freddy or the band, much like Margaret Thatcher couldn’t stop the Meryl movie)

    Such an interesting story. I remember being fascinated by a news article about a woman who was a life long friend of Mercury. He was a trouble and successful genius, which I think think people would be interested to know the story.

  34. Maya Dragunova says:

    I think Henry Cavill looks like Freddie. The eyes, the hair, the height. Maybe except Freddie’s over bite. Also I don’t think Henry has the acting chops to pull something as big as this!

  35. Happy21 says:

    I remember hearing that SBC was going to play Freddie and thinking it was perfect. When I saw SBC in Talledega Nights I thought how much he looked like Freddie AND I do believe SBC can act. I could see him going ‘method’ for the Freddie Mercury bio. I thought it was going to be just that though a Freddie Mercury Bio not a story of Queen. Even though Queen was extremely important a bio of the lead singer needs to be about the lead singer and his life and his music.

    Too bad it’s not going to work out.

  36. manta says:

    How about an original and bold idea for once? Take an unknown for whom it would be a breakthrough. Sam Riley was a nobody and did a brillant job playing Ian Curtis, Control is an excellent film.

    Why every biopic on earth has to be played by a famous actor? Yes, I know, it’s the paved road to the Oscar, but it’s getting so tiresome.
    I can’t help looking at the screen and picturing Stephen Colbert when he does his antics and sudenly stares at the camera,screaming “Give me my Emmy now!”.

  37. Annie says:

    What about Russell Brand? Whenever he shaves his beard, I think he looks JUST like Freddie.

  38. MissMary says:

    SOmeone on tumblr is stumping for Ben Whishaw but I really can’t see him as Freddie Mercury.

  39. Mia says:

    I love Freddy Mercury. He was fabulous and I loved the theatricality in his music and costumes. I just can’t believe the rest of Queen would want to whitewash his life story into some kind of PG rated schlock. What is so shameful about his life? And they should have enough respect for his fans to know that they can show the nitty, gritty aspects of his life and that people will still love him.

  40. Sara says:

    James Haven (Angelina’s bro) would be perfect, as far as looking the part. But they need a really REALLY strong performer to pull this off and do It justice. I’m sort of with the group that thinks this doesn’t need to be made. Freddie Mercury was actually intensely private, which may seem ironic, given his flamboyance, but it was a part he played. “The Great Pretender,” and all that. But if it has the support of his band mates, then I don’t know.

  41. wendywoo says:

    So let me get this straight- he wanted to do a film about decadent life of an extraordinary man, developed it to the point where David Frigging Fincher and Tom Hooper wanted to be involved and Queen wanted a Family Theme Park Ride? That’s what it sounds like to me. Such a shame the project will almost inevitably die, I would have seen Sacha’s film and now Queen can what? Preserve the squeeky clean family fun night in image of Queen? THEY ARE CALLED QUEEN!!!

  42. magpie says:

    Jared Leto. Looks nothing like him but a good actor who can sing and could probably pull off a major transformation.

  43. moon says:

    IF they did this Sacha’s way, and he managed to tone down his antics, play it truthfully/subtly (well, subtle compared to Borat) and do a great biopic – it would’ve been Oscar material. Maybe that was what Sacha was going for.

  44. Adrien says:

    I don’t doubt SBC could pull off a Freddie Mercury biopic but he’s 6’4″. Freddie was around 5’7″ to 5’8″. If he didn’t pull out of the project, will the production team make a Lord of the Rings type effects?

  45. phlyfiremama says:

    The truth is, Queen~particularly Freddy~was your typical 70′s rock star band. Of course they want to whitewash it now, but Freddie in particular was very promiscuous with LOTS of partners and group sex situations. My old roommate, who was a gay male hairdresser and worked with Freddie in Houston, told me this. Given his sad and VERY untimely demise, it really was no surprise. Rock stars~even today~can get ANYTHING they want~sex, drugs, you name it. There is a price to pay~

  46. wazoo says:

    I like Greg Kinnear from “Little Miss Sunshine”. Although i’m not sure if he would be the right guy for this specific part, his performances strike me as being sincere and heartfelt. I think he’s a talented actor.

    SBC would do better staying away from the serious and portraying a fictional character so that he would have more creative interpretative freedom. it seems that a lot of his funny moments are incidental