Is Sacha Baron Cohen The Right Choice To Play Freddie Mercury?

We learned this morning, via a BBC interview with Queen guitarist Brian May, that this guy:

…is to play the role of this guy, in a forthcoming Queen feature film.


The early online buzz is positive – people seem to think Baron Cohen will make a great Freddie, though the logic behind this seems pretty flimsy, based primarily on the fact that Cohen has already sported figure-hugging lycra and a moustache, in the role of Borat.

That’s true enough. But Baron Cohen was also funny in the role of a spoof rapper, and no-one ever suggested he should star in a Hollywood biopic of Tupac Shakur after watching Da Ali G Show.

That’s because Borat and Ali G are both comic creations – whereas Freddie Mercury is a much-loved rock icon, with a tragic life story. This is an important role: the first time Mercury has been portrayed on the big screen. Is Baron Cohen really the best man for the job?

We’re talking about a guy with a history of quarrying humour from gay stereotypes (Bruno), as well as poking fun at Mercury himself. When Cohen presented the MTV Europe awards, he arrived on stage in a muscle vest and declared: “Hello it is me, Freddy Mercury… I joking, he die of AIDS.”

Casting aside, the film looks promising. It’s being scripted by Peter Morgan, of Last King Of Scotland and Frost/Nixon fame (lending weight to the idea that this will be a serious film, not a comic one). Meanwhile, it’s intriguing to learn that the action will focus on the period leading up to Live Aid – a time when Queen were past their prime, regarded as yesterday’s men.

Live Aid changed all that, of course. Queen’s performance has entered rock lore as one of the greatest stadium spectacles of all time. I can’t wait to see how they recreate that, cinematically. Will they use original footage? Will they reference the other performers? And if so, who might play Bono, or Bob Geldof? (my money’s on Jason Statham and Ian McKellen, respectively).


It’s almost a cliche to point out that the Queen back catalogue and legacy have not been sensitively handled by Brian May and co. The songs have been licensed to everyone from SingStar to Lego Rock Band. And remember the duet with boyband 5ive?

Of course, all that will be forgiven if they can produce a feature film that tells the band’s story in a compelling and weighty manner. But I’m not convinced Sacha Baron Cohen is capable of sufficient gravitas to make that happen.

Let’s at least hope he can sing Radio Ga Ga better than he can the Kazakhstan national anthem…