'Bohemian Rhapsody' would have been ‘a disaster’ if Sacha Baron Cohen had played Freddie Mercury, says Brian May
According to May, the producers had realized 'just in time' what a disaster it was going to be if the 'Borat' star had played Mercury in the biopic
'Bohemian Rhapsody', the biopic of legendary Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, had a long and difficult road to the big screen, considering the movie was in development since 2010.
Fascinatingly, at one point before Rami Malek came on board to play the rock legend, producers had tried to cast Sacha Baron Cohen to play Mercury in the critically acclaimed film. While Cohen left the project owing to creative differences, Queen guitarist Brian May has now claimed that a version of the movie with the 'Ali G' star at the helm would have been a "disaster", Digital Spy reports.
In a conversation with Louder, May said: "Well, that was a near-disaster. I think we realized just in time what a disaster that was going to be. And it actually wasn’t rocket science to figure that out. But yeah, that’s one of the rocks that we nearly hit. I think we were all nervous in the beginning when the casting process was going on. Because yes, that’s a real tough thing to contemplate – somebody playing the part of you."
"The guy who plays me, Gwilym Lee, I spent a lot of time with him, so he understood me. He'd be picking up my mannerisms and what makes me tick," he continued.
"So when Freddie and me are in the studio, confronting each other, it's very real. Some of it was improvised, but they did it with the knowledge that they understood us from the inside out."
There has been a lot of speculation as to why exactly the 'Borat' star quit the movie, with some saying Cohen wanted to make a "harder" biopic and took issue with the band wanting to "depict [themselves] as great as possible".
Fellow member Roger Taylor also recently gave his two cents over the speculation, saying: "There was a lot of talk about Sacha and stuff, [but] it was never really on, you know. I don't think he took it seriously enough, didn't take Freddie seriously enough. But I think, really, it's a long road, but we're at the end of it now."
For his part, Baron Cohen tells the story a little differently. In a 2016 interview with Howard Stern, the actor explained that his desire to delve into Mercury's indulgent lifestyle caused a rift between he and the band. "The guy (Mercury) was wild. He was living an extreme lifestyle," Cohen said of the singer. "They are a band. They've got to protect their legacy as a band. They want it to be about Queen."
While it will always be a mystery as to how the movie would have fared with Cohen as the lead, critics and Queen fans across the globe loved Malek's portrayal of Mercury — a role for which he received a nomination for best actor at the upcoming Golden Globes, while the film itself is up for best picture.
'Bohemian Rhapsody' smashed it at the box office, raking in more than $550 million, despite a budget of just $52 million.