GK Films, in partnership with Robert De Niro’s and Jane Rosenthal’s Tribeca Productions, has announced that Sacha Baron Cohen has inked a deal to star in a biopic of Queen lead singer Freddy Mercury. Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon, The Queen) is working on a script that would focus on the band’s peak years, culminating with their legendary performance at Live Aid in 1985.
Cohen is quite an interesting choice in my mind. He’s certainly charismatic enough for the part and has a real knack for disappearing into the characters he takes on. A rights package has been put together that includes the band’s classic songs, but it’s currently unclear if Baron Cohen will sing or if Mercury’s vocals will be used. While I suppose he did sing in Sweeney Todd, I don’t particularly remember it and living up to Mercury’s famous pipes is a whole different animal. He’s currently at work on Martin Scorsese’s 3D family adventure Hugo Cabret.
Mercury died of AIDS in 1991, but his last days won’t be the subject of the film. Queen’s surviving members (Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon) are completely behind the picture’s development and have gone so far as to form Queen Films to be a part of the film’s production.
No director has been hired, but it looks like they’re shooting for a 2011 production start. I can’t help but think this would have been the perfect project for Bob Fosse (he died in 1987), and I’m having a hard time imagining a modern-day helmer who would inject the subject with the creative style it deserves. Mercury is the sort of icon who deserves more than just the standard by-the-book biopic treatment.
Below I’ve included a video featuring a portion of Queen’s Live Aid 1985 performance singing “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Radio Ga Ga.”