Why Sacha Baron Cohen ditched Freddie Mercury role

Sacha Baron Cohen joked that including two black actors in his new film means he won't win an Oscar. Photo / Getty
Sacha Baron Cohen joked that including two black actors in his new film means he won't win an Oscar. Photo / Getty

Sacha Baron Cohen has revealed he walked away from playing Queen's lead singer Freddie Mercury because the band wanted to project its legacy and not their lifestyle.

In an interview with Howard Stern, the Borat star said Mercury's death was to occur in the middle of the biopic and not the end and that alone was enough to convince him something wasn't sitting right.

Baron Cohen was connected to the project in 2010 but he later distanced himself from the biopic, citing creative differences.

"A member of the band, I won't say who, said, 'You know, this is such a great movie because it's got such an amazing thing that happens in the middle of the movie.' And I go, 'What happens in the middle of the movie?'," Baron Cohen said.

"He goes, 'You know, Freddie dies.' ... I go, 'What happens in the second half of the movie?' He goes, 'We see how the band carries on from strength to strength.

"I said, 'Listen, not one person is going to a movie where the lead character dies from Aids and then you carry on to see how the band carries on'."

During his chat with Stern, Baron Cohen called Queen's lead guitarist Brian May an "amazing musician" but "not a great movie producer".

Last year Queen drummer Roger Taylor gave Britain's Independent newspaper another reason why Baron Cohen departed which included that he "wasn't really at heart an actor".

"We didn't really feel in the end that he (Baron Cohen) was right. We wanted an amazingly good actor in the purest sense."

May also told Classic Rock magazine that "in the end we felt that his presence in the movie would be very distracting".

Baron Cohen says the band has some great stories to tell about their opulent lifestyle but he regrets not walking away sooner.

"There are amazing stories about Freddie Mercury," he told Stern.

"The guy was wild. There are stories of little people with plates of cocaine on their heads walking around a party.

"Apparently, the band nixed the idea of telling those grittier stories.

"They wanted to protect their legacy as a band."

- Bang! Showbiz

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