Another look ahead to the Freddie Mercury biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody

[There’s plenty of anticipation for Bohemian Rhapsody, the long-awaited Freddie Mercury biopic, which will hit theatres on November 2. One-time intern Dorothy Lee looks ahead to the film. – AC]

If you’re a fan of Queen or Freddie Mercury, you’ll probably want to see the new biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody, which will be released in theatres on November 2nd and stars Mr. Robot’s Rami Malek as Mercury. The film focuses on a period spanning 15 years from the time Queen was formed until the band’s performance at Live Aid in 1985.

Work on the film began many years ago, with Sacha Baron Cohen originally cast as Mercury and also substantially involved with writing the original script. The biopic starring Cohen was set to be released in early 2014, however, Cohen quit the film in July 2013 due to creative differences with the surviving members of Queen (Brian May and Roger Taylor). Cohen had worked on the film for 6 years before quitting the project. During this time, he had introduced director’s David Fincher and Tom Hooper, and screenwriter Peter Morgan, to potentially work on the film but none of these options worked out.

While on The Howard Stern Show in March of 2016, Cohen suggested that the surviving members of Queen wanted to make a more PG-rated version of the film in which, during the second half of the film, would tell the story of how the band members carried on after Mercury passed away. As described by UK’s Daily Mail, Cohen claimed that the members of Queen had wanted to “sugar-coat the story of Mercury, who died of complications connected with Aids in 1991, and turn the script into the more cuddly tale of a rock band surviving against all odds”.

However, Cohen wanted to focus more on the story of Mercury and portray a grittier, more unfiltered version of the band’s story with scenes depicting Freddie Mercury’s wild and debaucherous lifestyle. For example, Cohen has commented that there are amazing stories about how wild Mercury was, one of which involved “little people walking around parties with plates of cocaine on their heads!”

Listen to the sound clip below from The Howard Stern Show.

In response, Brian May shared a few thoughts of his own on the matter in an interview with Event Magazine (as reported by UK’s Daily Mail in April 2016). He said that Cohen “told untruths about what happened” and that “Sacha became an arse”.

May claims that he and Roger Taylor were not against making a “gritty film” and that they are not the kind of people who would ever duck from the truth. As for why Cohen is no longer involved with the film, May said: “we decided he wasn’t right for the role for very good reasons, which will become apparent if you watch what he’s done recently” (May was likely referring to Cohen’s movie The Brothers Grimsby). May went on to say “it’s obvious that it wasn’t going to work, him playing Freddie. It wouldn’t suspend your disbelief. We’re hoping Ben Whishaw will do it. He’s fabulous – a real actor”.

For more information on this, take a read of this article at The Daily Mail.

While the final version of Bohemian Rhapsody might be a great film, I personally think that Sacha Baron Cohen’s version of the biopic would likely have been much more interesting. Anyone else agree?

Here is the official summary of the film from 20th Century Fox:

Bohemian Rhapsody is a foot-stomping celebration of Queen, their music, and their extraordinary lead singer Freddie Mercury, who defied stereotypes and shattered convention to become one of the most beloved entertainers on the planet. The film traces the meteoric rise of the band through their iconic songs and revolutionary sound, their near-implosion as Mercury’s lifestyle spirals out of control, and their triumphant reunion on the eve of Live Aid, where Mercury, facing a life-threatening illness, leads the band in one of the greatest performances in the history of rock music. In the process, cementing the legacy of a band that was always more like a family, and who continue to inspire outsiders, dreamers and music lovers to this day.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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