The saga of the Freddie Mercury biopic: Brian May denies Sacha Baron Cohen will star

In yet another twist, Queen guitarist Brian May says it was a "small joke" and the Borat star isn't back at the helm...

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Wait a minute, only yesterday you were saying Sacha Baron Cohen was playing Freddie Mercury?

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That’s right. Yesterday it was widely reported – including on this website – that Sacha Baron Cohen had resolved his “creative differences” with Brian May and Roger Taylor and would be doing the biopic after all.

Early April Fools’ Day prank?

Nope. Queen’s manager Jim Beach said as much in a speech at the Artist & Management awards. He told the audience:

“You have probably followed the saga of the famous Queen-Freddie Mercury biopic which has been developing in Hollywood for the last seven years. An important breakthrough is that we have now managed to persuade Sacha Baron Cohen to write, produce and direct this movie, and he has also agreed to star.”

So was the manager lying?

He was joking – or at least that’s what Brian May says. On his official website he explains it was a “small joke that Jim threw in”:

“He said that, in response to enquiries about the progress on the Freddie feature film, that Sacha Baron Cohen had been re-engaged to write, produce and direct the film, as well as starring in all four major roles! I’m afraid some folks might have taken it seriously!”

Has Sacha Baron Cohen taken it seriously?

He’s been very quiet about the whole thing – which is suspicious in itself.

Remind me when and why he stopped being involved in the first place.

Back in July 2013 because of “creative differences”.

Later that year Brian May explained that they thought he would be “distracting.”

“In the end, we felt that his presence in the movie would be very distracting… 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 — we didn’t think that could really happen with Sacha.”

So who will play the Queen frontman?

Well, Ben Whishaw was supposed to Baron Cohen’s replacement and was officially confirmed way back in December 2013. But he’s also been keeping schtum and his filming schedule for 2015 looks awfully busy.

I won’t hold my breath then.

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It does seem more like a farce than a film at the moment but you never know – perhaps this is an early April Fools’ Day prank and Brian May is the one having a “small joke”. Watch this space…