Sacha Baron Cohen has opened up about clashing with the band Queen over plans for a Freddie Mercury biopic.
The Borat star was originally signed on to play the legendary Queen singer, who died of AIDS-related illness in 1991, in a biopic made in collaboration with the band.
The project hit a stumbling block in 2013 when the actor opted to pull out of the project over “creative differences” – and though Bond star Ben Whishaw was signed to replace him, the film later stalled due to scripting problems.
Speaking to Howard Stern this week, Sacha Baron Cohen finally opened up about the reason for his rift with the band – confirming they had tried to “clean up” his vision for the film, as well as taking the focus away from Mercury.
He said: “There are amazing stories about Freddie Mercury… the guy was wild. He was living an extreme lifestyle – debauchery! There are stories of little people with plates of cocaine on their heads walking around parties.
“[When Queen intervened] it was less interesting a movie.
“You’ve got to remember, and I understand it – they are a band, they want to protect their legacy as a band… they want it to be about Queen. And I fully understand that.”
He continued: “[After] my first meeting, I should never have carried on, after a member of the band said ‘this is such a great movie because such an amazing thing happens in the middle of the movie’.
“I ask what happens in the middle of the movie, and he says ‘Freddie dies’.
“I go, ‘So you mean, it’s a bit like Pulp Fiction, the end is the middle and the middle is the end? That’s wild, that’s interesting.’
“He goes ‘no no, normal movie’, so I said ‘wait a minute, what happens in the second half of the movie?’
“And he said, ‘Well, we see how the band carries on from strength to strength’… I said, ‘Listen, not one person is going to see a movie where the lead character dies from AIDS, and then you carry on to see the band carry on!’.”
When Stern suggested it was the band’s guitarist Brian May interfering, Cohen added: “I’m not saying it was Brian May! I’m not saying it was.”
The Borat star continued: “There’s a type of biography called hagiography – if you’re a king, you want your own history written. You want to be the guy who saved the world, and you don’t want it to be someone else saves the world.”
“The problem is with any biopic… if you’re in control of your rights to your life story, why wouldn’t you depict yourself as great as possible?”
He said: “The remaining members are still great musicians, Brian May is a great guitarist… but he is not a great movie producer.
“They were very specific about the way they wanted to do it – at the end of the day, it really was an artistic difference.”
Baron Cohen’s latest film has come under fire for a scene in which Donald Trump is shown getting infected with HIV.