Brian May explains why Sacha Baron Cohen was wrong for Freddie Mercury biopic

Queen guitarist says Baron Cohen's presence would have been 'distracting'

Queen guitarist Brian May has explained why Sacha Baron Cohen was wrong for the planned biopic of Freddie Mercury.

Baron Cohen had been set to star as Mercury since the film was announced in September 2010 but this summer he pulled out of the project, reportedly because he and Queen, who have script and director approval, were unable to agree on the type of movie they wanted to make. Queen drummer Roger Taylor has recently offered an explanation why, saying: “We felt Sacha probably wasn’t right in the end. We didn’t want it to be a joke. We want people to be moved.”

Now May has given his take on the situation. “It’s quite difficult to talk about because we owe Sacha a lot. He had so much enthusiasm for the project and it really helped us kick it into the start position. But in the end we felt that his presence in the movie would be very distracting,” May told Classic Rock.

“What led us to that conclusion was the last three movies that he’s made – The Dictator, Les Miserables and Hugo – in which he makes outstanding performances, but they’re very much Sacha Baron Cohen performances. And we thought there has to be no distraction in the Freddie movie. You have to really suspend that disbelief – the man who plays Freddie, you have to really believe is Freddie. And we didn’t think that could really happen with Sacha. That’s not any criticism of his talent whatsoever, it’s just a feeling that it was not going to work – that the pieces didn’t fit together anymore.”

Continuing, May denied that Baron Cohen left the project on bad terms, saying: “It’s a shame that there were these sensationalist stories about him walking out. None of that was true… We remain friends with Sacha and hopefully there will be another project that we will work on together in the future.”

May also insisted the biopic is now in a “good shape” and revealed that the film’s makers are “close” to signing up a replacement for Baron Cohen, but declined to name which actor is now in the frame to star as Mercury. However, Roger Taylor revealed on Friday (October 19) that Skyfall actor Ben Whishaw is now being targeted for the role.

Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe was recently linked to the film but quickly denied rumours he could play Mercury, saying: “I am completely wrong for that part!”