He was involved with the project for six years, but after sensationally dropping out of the Freddie Mercury biopic in 2013, the film’s would-be star Sacha Baron Cohen has revealed the extent of the “artistic differences” that he claims made it impossible for him to continue on.
Speaking on the Howard Stern Show, the creator of Borat and Ali G explained that the long-delayed movie about the excessive life of the Queen frontman was his passion project, but that the remaining members of the band wanted to “depict [themselves] as great as possible”.
“They want to protect their legacy as Queen, and I fully understand that,” he said. “If you’re in control of your rights and your life story, why wouldn’t you depict yourself as great as possible?
During the first meeting, which the Grimsby star now admits he should “have never carried on”, a member of the band (who Cohen vehemently refused to name) told him that Freddie would die just halfway through the movie, but that the film would continue, depicting how Queen “carries on from strength to strength”.
Cohen told Stern: “I said, ‘Listen, not one person is going to a movie where the lead character dies from AIDS and then you carry on to see how the band carries on’.”
The project seems to have been fraught with problems. Cohen claimed that originally he was asked to pen the script, but feeling he wasn’t up to the job brought in The Queen writer Peter Morgan, plus director David Fincher to direct.
But Fincher was another in a line of directors that dropped out of the movie.
“It really was an artistic difference,” says Cohen. “Brian May is a great musician, but he’s not a great movie producer.”
He had been singled out by Queen drummer Roger Taylor as a preferred replacement for Baron Cohen back in 2013.