Queen reveal next choice for Mercury, why Cohen went
In 2007 we heard that Sacha Baron Cohen was set to play Freddie Mercury and he had taken the excellent writer Peter Morgan on board to deliver the script. However that changed come July of this year as Cohen pulled out of the project apparently concerned he couldn't get the full version of Mercury to the big screen.
Now there's a new star announced to play the lead and Queen have finally talked about why Cohen left and what happened with the project.
The news is that Ben Whishaw is set to play Freddie Mercury now, you may know him from films such as Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, Skyfall (Filmstalker review) or Cloud Atlas (Filmstalker review). Not quite the lookalike that Cohen was but then we are talking about acting.
This piece of news comes from Roger Taylor the Queen drummer through the BBC's The One Show, NME and The Guardian so it isn't a rumour from an inside source kind of thing. There Taylor said that he hoped it would be Whishaw so there are still some things to iron out in the deal, but it seems a good choice and a strong possibility.
At the same time, speaking to Classic Rock Magazine, Queen's guitarist Brian May talked about why they feel they had to let Sacha Baron Cohen leave the project, and it isn't about the script intention, well at least not from their point of view anyway.
He says that it's because of what Cohen represents and how he would make the film look to audiences.
"What led us to that conclusion was the last three movies that [Baron Cohen has] 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 is interesting as it is a valid comment although the story of Cohen leaving the production suggested that it was because he wanted to do a revealing biographical film of Freddie Mercury and that the band members didn't want that, they wanted something that portrayed him and the band in a much better light.
May went on to address that in the magazine article as he said:
"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."
I think that sounds fair enough. Perhaps the original script wanted to concentrate on the behind the scenes story and move away from what we know about Mercury and the band wanted more focus on the Mercury we all knew, or thought we did at least.
To be honest this is the kind of thing we won't really hear about until after the film is released, and even then it will take some time to reveal all. However Whishaw could be a good choice. Can he sing?