It’s sure to go down in history as one of the all-time most intriguing films that never got made: a Freddie Mercury biopic starring Sacha Baron Cohen as the legendary rock star. Cohen was signed on and working with writer Peter Morgan (The Queen—that’s The Queen, as in Elizabeth, not Queen, as in the band) and directors like David Fincher and Tom Hooper. But none of Cohen’s choices were approved by Queen, and he eventually left the project over the dreaded “creative differences.”
Now Queen drummer Brian Taylor has gone on record with MOJO Magazine about exactly what caused the parting of ways. After first insisting that he didn’t want to discuss the Cohen situation, Taylor discussed the Cohen situation thusly:
“We felt Sacha probably wasn’t right in the end. We didn’t want it to be a joke. We want people to be moved.”
Curiously, Taylor’s stated reason conflicts directly with the stated reason in Deadline’s original article about Cohen and Queen’s falling out. At that time, Nikki Finke reported that Queen wanted “a PG movie” about the band, “while Cohen was counting on a gritty R-rated tell-all centered around the gifted gay singer.” That sounds quite a bit different from a goofy Sacha Baron Cohen comedy, although perhaps Taylor is suggesting that he and his bandmates just didn’t think Cohen, best known for comedies like Borat and The Dictator, could pull off his vision for the film.
Either way, we’ll never know, which is a real shame. While it’s true that Cohen hasn’t done much dramatic work to date (the closest he’s come is as the comic relief in otherwise serious movies like Les Miserables), that doesn’t mean he’s unqualified. But I guess Queen wasn’t messing around when they sang about how they’d keep on fighting ’til the end.