You’d think that no one could overshadow the flamboyance and celebrity of Freddie Mercury, but it looks like Sacha Baron Cohen is too much for even the late Queen singer. At least that’s what Brian May thought may have happened had they kept Cohen in the starring role of the Freddie Mercury biopic they were filming. “In the end, we felt that his presence in the movie would be very distracting,” May told Ultimate Classic Rock.
This summer, the news came out that Cohen was dropping out of the project, in which he had been arranged to appear since 2010. The reason for the big change was allegedly creative differences. In July, Deadline reported that the surviving members of Queen were imagining a wholesome PG movie, while Cohen wanted a “gritty R-rated tell-all.”
But according to May, the actual reason was that Cohen’s personality would have been just too big for the movie to handle. “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,” May said. “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 [think] that could really happen with Sacha.”
May dismissed the rumors that there is bad blood between the band and the actor, saying that Cohen “had so much enthusiasm for the project, and it really helped us kick it into the start position.” Right now, they’re looking for someone else for the part. May said they’re close to finding their man, but he wouldn’t name anyone in particular. “I can’t really say who it is, but I think we’re close. We’re in good shape,” May said.