Queen guitarist Brian May has said that there was no “sensationalist” fall-out between the band and Sacha Baron Cohen over the planned Freddie Mercury biopic.
Baron Cohen was said to have left the project over creative differences, with speculation that he wanted a much grittier portrayal of Mercury’s life than the surviving members of Queen did. May told Classic Rock magazine: “It’s a shame that there were these sensationalist stories about him walking out. None of that was true.
“So we’re in a very good place with the movie, and we remain friends with Sacha and hopefully there will be another project that we will work on together in the future.”
May also explained that despite Baron Cohen’s extensive credits in comedy and drama, it was felt that the Borat star would be “too distracting” as Mercury.
“It’s quite difficult to talk about because we owe Sacha a lot,” the musician continued. “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.
“What led us to that conclusion was the last three movies that he’s made – The Dictator, Les Misérables 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.” May added: “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. But we parted company on very good terms.”
May said that Baron Cohen’s replacement is already in the frame, adding: “I can’t really say who it is, but I think we’re close. We’re in good shape.” His comments coincide with Queen drummer Roger Taylor’s hint that Ben Whishaw is the group’s preference to play Mercury.