David Fincher has revealed that test shots of Sacha Baron Cohen as Freddie Mercury were “spectacular”.
The Fight Club filmmaker was originally set to direct Bohemian Rhapsody in its early stages, before Stephen Frears eventually got the job.
Baron Cohen was on board to play the Queen frontman, too, before exiting the project over creative differences and being replaced by Rami Malek.
In conversation with Aaron Sorkin on an episode of The Director’s Cut podcast, per The Playlist, Fincher turned to the filmmakers’ shared history with Baron Cohen, as he recently starred in Sorkin’s awards contender The Trial of the Chicago 7.
“He’s so deft and specific,” said Fincher of the actor’s talent. “He’s such an intellect about the things he’s doing. He’s so thoughtful. He’s so quiet and thoughtful and chooses his words so specifically.”
The actor was cast as Abbie Hoffman in The Trial of The Chicago 7, which prompted Fincher to say: “At first I was really nervous [about the idea of Cohen playing Hoffman]. And then I found him to be so winning.”
Reminiscing on his own experience with Baron Cohen in the early days of Bohemian Rhapsody, Fincher asked Sorkin if he had seen the test photos of the actor in character as Mercury.
Sorkin said he hadn’t seen them, to which Fincher responded: “Dude, you have to see…these photos are spectacular.”
Back in 2018, Bohemian Rhapsody director Stephen Frears had said Sacha Baron Cohen had wanted to make “a very outrageous film” which was “a gritty R-rated tell-all”, but that Queen musicians Brian May and Roger Taylor had “a certain amount of caution”.
In a four-star review of The Trial of the Chicago 7, NME called the film “a brilliant, thrilling piece of angry social history.”