The biopic about legendary Queen frontman Freddie Mercury was in limbo for a short while following Sacha Baron Cohen’s departure due to creative differences with the remaining members of the band. However, the movie is back on track now with the announcement that Ben Whishaw (Cloud Atlas, Skyfall) has been cast as the titular singer and Dexter Fletcher (Wild Bill) is set to direct.
Cohen clashed with Queen when the incendiary actor intended to take the film in a gritty, R-rated direction that explored all corners of Mercury’s tumultuous life. The details on his version were never disclosed but it was likely Cohen would have wanted to touch on Cohen’s sexual relationships (both male and female), parties, and eventual battle with AIDS. The surviving members of Queen, however, opted for a lighter, PG-rated film that would no doubt gloss over some of these elements.
It’s a shame that things didn’t work out, as Cohen is not only a chameleon of an actor (having starred in such films as Borat and Bruno), but has also shown impressive musical ability (Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street). His surprising physical resemblance to Mercury would have just been icing on the cake.
Whishaw, for his part, is no slouch of an actor either. Having played a disturbed killer in Perfume: The Story of a Murderer before taking multiple parts in the sprawling Wachowski/Tykwer epic Cloud Atlas, he then went on to portray Q in last year’s Skyfall. Whishaw doesn’t have the striking physical similarities to Mercury that Cohen had, but no doubt he has the acting chops to give the singer a proper portrayal.
The untitled Freddy Mercury biopic is scripted by Peter Morgan (Rush) and, according to Collider, ends with the 1985 Live Aid set. This confirms that the film will avoid Mercury’s illness, as it was not publicized until the late 80s. Even so, with promising talent both in front of and behind the camera, the story of Freddie Mercury will be a compelling one to finally see on the big screen.