Queen’s May reveals why Cohen couldn’t play Freddie
Sacha Baron Cohen’s larger-than-life movie characters made him the wrong person to play Freddie Mercury in the upcoming Queen movie, says Brian May.
But he and bandmate Roger Taylor didn’t realise it was a problem at first.
Last week they confirmed that lesser-known actor Ben Whishaw – who played Q in James Bond movie Skyfall – will take on the role of Mercury, and the film will be produced by Dexter Fletcher.
Now May tells Rolling Stone: “There was a story put out that Sacha had walked out in disgust, but none of that was true. We parted amicably – we’re still in touch and we’re still good friends.
“We just came to the conclusion that it wasn’t going to work with Sacha in the leading role. He’s brilliant; but we felt having him in there would be distracting because he’s such a powerful persona.
“The characters he makes tend to stand out in a way that wouldn’t be suitable for the film. Freddie has to be completely believable – you have to not question for an instant that you’re watching Freddie, and that couldn’t have happened with Sacha.”
May noticed the problem after seeing Borat creator Cohen in Hugo, Les Misarables and The Dictator. “It didn’t occur to us straight away,” the guitarist admits. “He came to us with a lot of great thoughts and great ideas and a lot of enthusiasm.
“It dawned on us slowly as we started to look at what he had done in Hugo. We thought, ‘No, this isn’t going to work,’ and I think that anyone who sees those films will probably have the same feelings.
“We really were enjoying working with him, but you just have to come to a realistic decision in the end.”
Queen are continuing work on an album set to feature material recorded by Mercury before his death in 1991 – but bassist John Deacon has ruled out any involvement.
“It’s a shame,” May says. “We kind of mourn to John as well as Freddie, in a sense. He’s an amazing player, and it was just the companionship as part of the group. Hopefully you’ll see that in the film: the relationships we had were very strong.”