Sacha Baron Cohen’s FREDDIE MERCURY Biopic Would Have Been Radically Different From BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY
Did you know that Sacha Baron Cohen almost played Freddie Mercury? The reason it didn’t happen is because Cohen’s vision for the film was radically different than that of everyone else, and wouldn’t have much resembled Bohemian Rhapsody.
Stephen Frears – who was originally attached to direct when Cohen was the star, talked to Vulture about what the movie would have been:
“Sacha wanted to make a very outrageous film, which I would imagine Freddie Mercury would have approved of. Outrageous in terms of his homosexuality and outrageous in terms of endless naked scenes. Sacha loved all of that.”
That makes sense. If you’ve seen Baron’s other works, namely Borat and Bruno you know that Cohen is not afraid to be naked on screen. Plus, Cohen’s vision was that it was more of a straight up biopic of Freddie, than a story about Queen. The film was originally titled just Freddie Mercury.
A former studio executive at Sony had this to say:
“I’m not sure whether Sacha was attached from the very beginning of Sony’s involvement, but there was definitely a period where [he] was meant to star and he and the studio met with directors,” the executive says. “It was a biopic of Freddie more than the story of the band, although a portion of the structure dealt with the ups and downs of the band, but always from Freddie’s POV.”
Before Frears signed on, Cohen was courting such directors as David Fincher and Tom Hooper. The biggest reason Cohen’s version didn’t happen was because his clashed with the other surviving members of Queen. They wanted to preserve the legacy of Mercury, and tell a safer version. Says Frears:
“You could always tell there would be trouble with the rest of the band because [Sacha] was so outrageous and they weren’t. They were much more conventional.”
The current version wasn’t without controversy. Bryan Singer was seemingly fired towards the end of the production due to unprofessional antics and constant blowouts with his star, Rami Malek. He was replaced for the latter portion of production by Dexter Fletcher.The final product has been met with mixed reviews from critics, but absolutely adored by fans- as was evident by it’s A CinemaScore and phenomenal opening weekend.
Cohen’s take would have been interesting. I don’t agree with shying away from the controversial stuff in Mercury’s life – it needs to be included if his story is to be told. But on the other hand, embellishment for the sake of shock value isn’t good either. There is a fantastic middle ground there, but it would appear that nobody found it.
Bohemian Rhapsody is in theaters now.