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Sacha Baron Cohen Expands on Reasons for Leaving Freddie Mercury Biopic

Freddie Mercury Sacha Baron Cohen
Hulton Archive / Stefania D’Alessandro, Getty Images

In the summer of 2013, Sacha Baron Cohen walked away from the biopic of the life of Queen frontman Freddie Mercury. Today (March 8), he said that one of the main creative differences they had was the placement of Mercury’s death in the story.

As Cohen told Howard Stern in the Soundcloud widget below, the problems started in his first meeting after he had signed on, when one of the band members, whose name Cohen would not disclose, told him, “You know, this is such a great movie because it’s got such an amazing thing that happens in the middle of the movie.”

That “amazing thing,” apparently, was Mercury’s death on Nov. 24, 1991. At first Cohen asked if the idea was to have the story out of sequence, as in Pulp Fiction, but that wasn’t the case. “Well, you know, you see how the band carries on from strength-to-strength,” he recalls the band member telling him. “I said, ‘Listen, not one person is going to see a movie where the lead character dies from AIDS and then you see the band carry on.'”

Stern sarcastically picked up on Queen’s vision for the movie. “Don’t you think it would be a great movie to see, at the final scene, Adam Lambert joins the band? I mean, isn’t that so dramatic?”

However, Cohen fully understands why the surviving band members would want to depict the last 25 years of Queen. “If you’re in control of your rights and your life story,” he asks rhetorically, “why wouldn’t you depict yourself as great as possible?”

Cohen also echoed what he said at the time about how he wanted accurate depictions of Mercury’s drug use and homosexuality, while the band wanted that aspect of his life sanitized. “The guy was wild,” Cohen said. “He was living an extreme lifestyle […] There are stories of little people with plates with cocaine on their heads walking around parties. Just an amazing story.”

Despite the way it ended between the two parties, Cohen didn’t let it affect his opinion of the band’s music. “The remaining members are still great musicians. Brian May is an amazing musician; he wrote half their stuff. But he’s not a great movie producer,” he said.

Listen to Sacha Baron Cohen Discuss the Freddie Mercury Biopic

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