Sacha Baron Cohen's Freddie Mercury biopic had it all: a Peter Morgan written screenplay, David Fincher and Tom Hooper's interests as possible directors, and Cohen himself possessing a pretty spot-on likeness for the man himself. Unfortunately, the film was never meant to be, and the star of The Brothers Grimsby has finally revealed why, as apparently Mercury's former bandmates were a little too protective of their legacy.
While doing an interview on The Howard Stern Show as part of his press tour for The Brothers Grimsby, Sacha Baron Cohen shared that one of the surviving members of the band dropped quite a bomb on him early on in the process. He described the unnamed band member / producer's approach to the film as follows:
I go, all right, so it’s a bit like Pulp Fiction, where the end is the middle and the middle is the end. … I go, 'All right, that's a wild movie. All right, that's interesting.' ... He goes, 'No, no, no. Normal movie.' I go, 'So wait a minute, what happens in the second half of the movie?' And he said, 'Well, you know, we see how the band carries on.' [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.
Keep in mind, this was what one of Queen's surviving members had told Sacha Baron Cohen in the early phases of the eventual 6 year slog that resulted in no Freddie Mercury biopic. Not to mention, that wasn't the only aspect they were particularly protective about, as Mercury's more outlandish behavior was allegedly going to wind up on the cutting room floor as well. But the real kicker that gave away the whole game was the fact that despite this film being developed as a "Freddie Mercury biopic," it really should have been labeled as a "Queen biopic." Though were the project more truthful in its purpose, it would probably cause more problems than solutions.
Like it or not, the main selling point in either a Freddie Mercury or a Queen inspired biopic, is Freddie Mercury. The man defined the term "larger than life" throughout his entire life, and in turn the public has remained as enamored with him after his life as they were during it. That's not to say that the rest of the band is unimportant, but rather that Mercury's life story is the most accessible way to lead the general public into discovering more about the man and the band he helped build. Not to mention, casting Sacha Baron Cohen in the role of Mercury is a double whammy of the actor having the look and the talent to carry the role to its best potential. Which is why Cohen's departure from this film is sadder than ever after learning why it perished.
While Sacha Baron Cohen is no longer part of the Freddie Mercury biopic, the project is still alive with Ben Whishaw as its lead and The Theory Of Everything's Anthony McCarten as its scribe. That's still a project we're dying to see pan out, but we can't help but mourn what could have been with the film's original pedigree. It'll be interesting to see if the "preferred" approach is still in play, and how it turns out in the end, but it's undeniable that a massive opportunity has slipped through the fingers of the producers.
For now, you can see Sacha Baron Cohen in The Brother's Grimsby this Friday.