Brian May: “Why Sacha Baron Cohen couldn’t play Freddie…”
Queen guitarist reveals why Borat star is no longer part of the Freddie Mercury movie.
Words: Paul Elliott
Brian May has revealed why the forthcoming Freddie Mercury biopic will not feature Sacha Baron Cohen playing the part of the late Queen singer.
“It’s quite difficult to talk about,” the Queen guitarist tells Classic Rock, “because we owe Sacha a lot. He had so much enthusiasm for the project and it really helped us kick it into the start position. But in the end we felt that his presence in the movie would be very distracting.
“What led us to that conclusion was the last three movies that he’s made – The Dictator, Les Miserables and Hugo – in which he makes outstanding performances, but they’re very much Sacha Baron Cohen performances. And we thought there has to be no distraction in the Freddie movie. You have to really suspend that disbelief – the man who plays Freddie, you have to really believe is Freddie. And we didn’t that could really happen with Sacha.
“That’s not any criticism of his talent whatsoever, it’s just a feeling that it was not going to work – that the pieces didn’t fit together anymore. But we parted company on very good terms.
“It’s a shame that there were these sensationalist stories about him walking out. None of that was true. So we’re in a very good place with the movie, and we remain friends with Sacha and hopefully there will be another project that we will work on together in the future.”
May says that a replacement for Cohen is already in the frame. “I can’t really say who it is, but I think we’re close. We’re in good shape.”
And he insists that the movie – created with the involvement of himself and Queen drummer Roger Taylor – will be an accurate portrayal of Mercury. “This is something very precious to us. Freddie was someone very important to us and we have to serve him well. We can’t do this wrong. It has to be done right. So we’ve spent time on the script and putting the team together.
“We’re very protective (of Freddie) and we’re known for not hiding away from the truth. There’s not going to be any pretense about this. It’s going to be something very true – as true as we can make it – but also respectful to Freddie as a performer and as a man.”