During an appearance last month on The Howard Stern Show, Sacha Baron Cohen detailed the reasons behind his departure from the Freddie Mercury biopic, citing the intransigence of some surviving Queen band members who he claimed wanted to “sugarcoat” the film and make it more about their resilience following Mercury's death in 1991 rather than the legendary singer himself.
“I said, 'listen'…not one person is gonna see a movie where the lead character dies from AIDS and then you carry on to see the band carry on,'” related Cohen, who later said of guitarist Brian May specifically: “[He's] an amazing musician…[but] not a great movie producer.”
Now May is hitting back at the comedian in a new interview with the Daily Mail, claiming Cohen “became an arse” during development of the biopic before taking a few digs at his career in the process.
“‘We had some nice times with Sacha kicking around ideas but he went off and told untruths about what happened,”” said May, who continued later: “Why would he go away and say that we didn”t want to make a gritty film? Are we the kind of people who have ever ducked from the truth? I don”t think so.”
Cohen signed on to star as the flamboyant rock frontman back in 2010 but dropped out nearly three years later; at the time, Deadline reported that Cohen wanted to make a “gritty R-rated tell-all” while the band was looking to go in a less-risque direction, a claim that seems to back up Cohen's version of the story. But May suggests there was much more to the split.
“We decided he wasn”t right for the role for very good reasons, which will become apparent if you watch what he”s done recently,” May continued. “It”s obvious that it wasn”t going to work, him playing Freddie. It wouldn”t suspend your disbelief. We”re hoping Ben Whishaw will do it. He”s fabulous – a real actor.”
The Mercury biopic has yet to find a director, though A-listers including David Fincher and Tom Hooper were rumored while Cohen was on board. Said May of the still-developing project: “We have arrived at a great storyline. But the film”s not going out till it”s right.”