Last month, we learned that the upcoming Freddie Mercury biopic (starring comedian Sacha Baron Cohen) had likely been axed due to creative differences between Baron Cohen and the living members of Queen, who are overseeing the project. But over the weekend, guitarist Brian May told Classic Rock the specifics on the split — and it’s a bit more one-sided than we originally thought.
“It’s quite difficult to talk about because we owe Sacha a lot,” May said. “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.”
May says it was Baron Cohen’s star power (specifically in his recent trio of films (The Dictator, Les Miserables and Hugo) that sealed the deal: “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.”
May also addresses the rumors behind his departure, stating that both parties are still on good terms.
“It’s a shame that there were these sensationalist stories about him walking out,” he says. “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 also says they have a replacement for Baron Cohen in the works: “I can’t really say who it is, but I think we’re close. We’re in good shape.”
Speaking of which, who do you think would be a good replacement for Mercury? Did Queen make a mistake by letting Baron Cohen go?