Producer Graham King Says Sacha Baron Cohen May Sing Queen Songs in Upcoming Freddie Mercury Biopic; Also Talks Adapting JERSEY BOYS

by     Posted 2 years, 330 days ago

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With director Marin Scorsese‘s Hugo getting released tomorrow, Steve got the chance to sit down with producer Graham King over the weekend.  That interview produced a Sunday article with updates on the Tomb Raider reboot.  King has several promising projects in the works, though, so today we wanted to pass along what he had to say on two other films set up at his production company GK Films.

The first is the Queen movie, in which Sacha Baron Cohen will play Freddie Mercury.  King suggests Cohen may even sing the classic Queen songs.  Currently, there is no director attached and the script is still in development because King knows with a subject so iconic, “You’ve got to get it right.”  King also talked about his adaptation of the Broadway musical Jersey Boys.  That script is also in development, and while there will be some changes in the translation from stage to screen, the “DNA of the movie is going to be the same.”  Hit the jump for the full interview.

sacha-baron-cohen-imageThe part that really intrigues me is the possibility of Cohen singing the songs.  Said King:

“We’ll see.  We’ll see what happens.  You know, Freddie’s got such a distinctive voice.  Sacha sang Sweeney Todd.  That was his voice.  And he’s got a fantastic voice as well.  We haven’t quite put them together yet to see the match.”

I generally prefer an actor to sing their own songs rather than lip synch, if possible.  But Mercury is a once-in-a-generation voice.  Cohen is a decent singer, but I don’t know that he can hit those patented Mercury high notes.  (I’ve embedded a clip of Cohen’s singing “The Contest” in Sweeney Todd if you’d like to judge for yourself.)

I am much less familiar with Jersey Boys, but King acknowledges the massive popularity of the property, and the challenges in adapting the stage musical.

“When you transform a stage play to the big screen, it’s never that easy because, obviously, the differences of telling the story and the characters… And there’s much more to these guys’ lives then, obviously, what’s in the show.  So it’s bringing that out, and getting all the resource material together to make a movie based on Jersey Boys.  The DNA is going to be the same.  The DNA of the movie is going to be the same.  But you’ve gotta get drama within those characters.”

Here’s the full transcript, followed by the video interview.

Graham-KingCollider: What is the long term plan for you?  Is there a number of films you want to be pushing out each year?  Is it, say, one?  Is it two?  Is it four?  Is there a goal in mind for you guys?

GRAHAM KING: No, we don’t really have that kind of model because then I’m scared you become more of a factory.  I’ve never tried to make a movie to pay an overhead, in other words.  We’re in a very creative business, and I want to make movies because I enjoy that movie or that material.  Next year, I’m hoping to make the Freddie Mercury story with Sacha Baron Cohen.  That’s something that I’m really passionate about doing, to show the world this guy’s life.  And after spending a lot of time with Brian May, Roger Taylor, Jim Beach (who’s been Queen’s manager from day one), it’s become a very exciting project for me.  I’m also making the movie version of the show Jersey Boys.  Again, something I was passionate about, and I chased those rights for a long time.  So it’s not really done on a yearly basis.  It’s about how the material, and when the material comes in.  If you develop your material and the script comes in great and you can attach a director and a cast and go off and make it, then I could make, I don’t know, six a year.  Or I could make one.  It really depends.

I’m a huge fan of Queen, and I was going to ask you about it anyway.  I have to ask, I’m assuming you have all the music rights?

KING: Yes.

So where are you right now in terms of the script, in terms of moving forward?  Do you have a start date?

KING: No, we don’t yet.  We’re waiting for the script to come in.  The script is being written now.  So, again, when you’re developing a story, for me anyway, it’s all so important to get the script right, especially when you’re telling the story of an icon.  You’ve got to get it right.  Otherwise, you’ll get killed by critics and fans.  And this is such a fantastic, wonderful, uplifting, and emotional story to tell, surrounded with that great music.  It’s got to be right.  The script has got to be just right.queen-band-image-01

Where is the genesis of this script coming from?  Is it being based on a book?  Is it being based on interviews with the band?

KING: It’s based on a whole bunch of things.  It is talking to Brian and Roger a lot and getting their stories.  It’s watching documentaries of Freddie.  It’s a little bit of Live Aid in there, which was known as the best 22 minutes in rock and roll performance history.  It’s just based on a lot of different resource materials that we can come up with.  And it was just fantastic that Queen believed in me and trusted me to have the rights to this, to make this story.  Because it’s something that obviously is very dear to their heart.  There hasn’t been a movie about Freddie or Queen before.  So it’s something we want to get just right and pleasing enough for the audience.

Totally.  Is Sacha going to sing?  Or is it going to be Freddie’s voice?

KING: We’ll see.  We’ll see what happens.  You know, Freddie’s got such a distinctive voice.  Sacha sang Sweeney Todd.  That was his voice.  And he’s got a fantastic voice as well.  We haven’t quite put them together yet to see the match.

Graham-KingHe does look the part, though.

KING: Oh, there’s no doubt.  He’s Freddie Mercury, right?  Yeah, it’ll be fantastic.  That was obviously a big reason.  I was making Hugo, and Sacha and I were talking about it, and I was like, “Well, who has the rights?  Well, no one has them yet.”  And I went after the rights.  And this is what comes, for me anyway, about building relationships when you make movies.  Making Gangs of New York and sitting with Leonardo DiCaprio for the first time, and talking about developing movies together, and if he had any movies, scripts that he really liked.  He said, “Yeah, Michael Mann is developing this picture called The Aviator, the story of Howard Hughes.”  And he goes, “I really want to play that role.  I really want to do this movie.”  And I went back to L.A. from Rome where we were shooting and got the script and loved it.  Hence, The Aviator got made.  So it’s all a relationship business.  We’re in a personal business.  It’s all personal relationships, if you’re lucky enough to build on one to the other.

Final question on the Queen project: do you guys have a director yet?

KING: No, we don’t.  Until we don’t get a script, I don’t want to put a director on.

jersey-boys-logoI definitely have to ask you about Jersey Boys, because hugely popular.  Massively popular.  Where are you in terms of moving forward where that will be in front of the cameras?

KING: Well, again, we’re hoping to be shooting this time next year.  No director yet set, but we’re getting the script written right now.  When you transform a stage play to the big screen, it’s never that easy because, obviously, the differences of telling the story and the characters.  This one, again—it’s such a, like you say, hugely popular show.  And there’s much more to these guys’ lives then, obviously, what’s in the show.  So it’s bringing that out, and getting all the resource material together to make a movie based on Jersey Boys.  The DNA is going to be the same.  The DNA of the movie is going to be the same.  But you’ve gotta get drama within those characters.

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