As far back as 2007, Sacha Baron Cohen was rumored to be starring as Freddie Mercury in a biopic about the iconic Queen frontman. Cohen officially became attached to the film in 2010, but the project never really got off the ground, and Cohen eventually bowed out in 2013, citing “creative differences” with the surviving members of Queen.
Today, as IndieWire reports, the actor stopped by The Howard Stern Show to offer some clarification on said creative differences. Essentially, Cohen thought he was starring in a R-rated, no-holds-barred dive into Freddie Mercury’s wild lifestyle, while the band members were more interested in a PG-rated exploration of the singer’s musical legacy. “There are amazing stories about Freddie Mercury,” Cohen says. “The guy was wild. He was living an extreme lifestyle [of] debauchery. There are stories of little people with plates of cocaine on their heads walking around a party.” Those stories, however, were exactly the kind of thing that the rest of Queen didn’t want in the movie. “It [becomes] a less interesting movie, but you’ve got to remember that they want to protect their legacy as a band, and they want it to be about Queen. And I fully understand that.”
Mercury’s bandmates also had some, shall we say, unconventional ideas about how the biopic should be structured. “[After] my first meeting,” Cohen says, “I should never have carried on because a member of the band — I won’t say who — said, ‘This is such a great movie, because such an amazing thing happens in the middle of the movie.’ I go, ‘What happens in the middle of the movie?’ He goes, ‘Freddie dies.’ I go, ‘So you mean it’s a bit like ‘Pulp Fiction,’ where the end is the middle and the middle is the end? That’s interesting.’ He goes, ‘No no no.’ So I said, ‘Wait a minute. What happens in the second half of the movie?’ And he said, ‘Well, we see how the band carries on from strength to strength.’ And I said, ‘Listen, not one person is going to see a movie where the lead character dies from AIDS and then you carry on to see [what happens to the band].'”
“I fully understand why Queen wanted to do this,” Cohen adds. “If you’re in control of your rights of your life story, why wouldn’t you depict yourself as great as possible?” As he concludes, however: “Brian May is an amazing musician, but he’s not a great movie producer.” Listen to a clip from the interview below.