Queen Drummer: Sacha Baron Cohen ‘Wasn’t Right’ to Play Freddie Mercury

Bryan Enk
Movie Talk
Freddie Mercury in 1982 and Sacha Baron Cohen
Freddie Mercury in 1982 and Sacha Baron Cohen

Sacha Baron Cohen won't be rocking you as Queen frontman Freddie Mercury ... and, according to an actual member of the band, that's a good thing.

The "Borat" star had long been attached to play Mercury in the dually long in-development biopic, an intriguing prospect due to the actor's remarkable physical resemblance to the singer. Cohen leaving the project this past July came as something as a surprise (and a disappointment to many), though Queen drummer Brian Taylor feels it's for the best.

"We felt Sacha probably wasn't right in the end," said Taylor in a recent interview with MOJO. "We didn't want it to be a joke. We want people to be moved."

Taylor referring to the biopic potentially being a "joke" most certainly has to do with the star's reputation for immersing himself into elaborate characterizations, creating outrageous personas such as Borat, Bruno, and Ali G — who are prone to entertaining and alienating in equal measure. Unfortunately, this side of Cohen's career and image might overshadow some of his fine dramatic work, such as in "Hugo" (2011), and the fact that he can sing, as he demonstrated in both "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" (2007) and "Les Miserables" (2012).

Cohen left the Freddie Mercury biopic in July due to "creative differences," with Deadline reporting that the band wanted a sanitized PG kind of film whereas Cohen was looking to do a gritty, "warts and all" R-rated tell-all. Cohen had recruited various directors such as David Fincher and Tom Hooper to develop the project over the years, though none were approved by the director.

Taylor himself has been frustrated by the film's seemingly endless development process. "I thought the music business was slow, but this has been like swimming in treacle [British term for molasses]," he told MOJO.

Cohen's departure makes for yet another setback — though to what extent is not entirely clear. "Frost/Nixon" screenwriter Peter Morgan, whom Cohen had brought on to pen the screenplay, thinks this might be the final nail in the coffin, telling the BBC that the film is "probably not going to happen" without the star's involvement. But some news outlets are reporting the film is still a go at Sony Pictures (though it's really hard to imagine anyone but Sacha Baron Cohen in the role of Freddie Mercury!)

Daniel Radcliffe recently denied the rumors that he was stepping in to replace Cohen. "This is the kind of thing that happens to me and it happens to Emma [Watson' with multiple 'Fifty Shades of Grey' things," said Radcliffe, who admitted that he's "completely wrong" for the part. "When somebody has column inches to fill, they just sub in one of our names."

Queen formed in London in 1970, consisting of Freddie Mercury (lead vocals, piano), Brian May (guitar, vocals), John Deacon (bass guitar), and Roger Taylor (drums, vocals). While their early influences were progressive rock and heavy metal, they went on to develop a more unique 'rock opera' style, becoming international sensations with their third and fourth albums, "Sheer Heart Attack" (1974) and "A Night at the Opera" (1975), the latter of which features the mega-hit single, "Bohemian Rhapsody."

According to Metro, the untitled biopic won't touch on Freddie Mercury's AIDS-related death in 1991 as it follows the early days of the band and ends with their legendary performance at the Live Aid concert in 1985.