Stephen Frears Frontrunner to Direct Freddie Mercury Film Starring Sacha Baron Cohen

     May 9, 2012


A biopic of Queen frontman Freddie Mercury has been in the works for quite some time.  In an inspired bit of casting, Sacha Baron Cohen is attached to star as the famed rock musician, and now the project is close to landing a director.  Variety reports that Stephen Frears (The Queen) is the frontrunner to land the directing job, though negotiations have yet to begin.  Apparently other filmmakers are still in the mix, but Frears “has the inside track.”  In addition to more serious fare like The Queen and Dangerous Liasons, Frears also directed the excellent 2000 music-centered dramedy High Fidelity.  Hit the jump for more.

sacha-baron-cohen-freddie-mercurySteve sat down with producer Graham King late last year, and he revealed that it’s possible that Cohen might be singing Queen songs himself in the biopic.  He stretched his vocal chops in Sweeney Todd, but I’m not too sure if he can match Mercury’s range.  Peter Morgan (The Queen) wrote the latest draft of the script, and the story will follow Queen’s formation up through their famous appearance at Live Aid in 1985.  The film will not, however, cover Mercury’s death in 1991 after battling AIDS.

Frears is currently directing the drama Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight for HBO, but his schedule is relatively clear for the near future (save for an adaptation of The Bengali Detective).  If he does land the gig, I’m hoping that production begins sometime this year; I’m eager to see Cohen tackle more dramatic material and this appears to be a fine vehicle to showcase his acting talents.  Producers have secured rights to a number of classic Queen songs, including “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “We Will Rock You,” and “We Are the Champions,” so this won’t be a music biopic that conveniently neglects the artist’s most famous work a la The Story of Jackie Jorp-Jomp.

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  • Dedpool

    First Andre 3000 as Hendrix and now this! Sweet!

  • Bobo

    Queen!: Now featuring 40% more dick jokes!

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  • AlexHeyNa

    I think someone like Tom Hooper or Baz Luhrmann should direct this. Then again, I haven’t read the script, so I don’t know what kind of tone they’re going for. I would just assume a light-hearted drama.

    I’m beyond excited for this movie. Queen is my absolute favorite band, Freddie Mercury my favorite musician. I’ve been following their career for years now, and to finally have a big-screen feature about them is awesome. And Sacha Baron Cohen definitely looks the part. But can he play the part? We’ll see! Aaahhh I’m so pumped!

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  • archey

    I’m really excited to see this film, but at the same time I’m disappointed with what time frame they are choosing in Mercury’s life to write about. In my opinion the last years of his life, while tragic, are where the true Freddie Mercury story is. When he found out he had aids and yet chose to continue to make the best music he could and live his life, is to me, a more moving testament to the man. When I listen to “The Show Must Go On” or “These Are The Days Of Our Lives” I find myself having a deeper admiration for the bravery and true talent he possessed. To write about his life in the mid 80′s just seems like a missed opportunity to really pay tribute to Mercury.

    • Adam

      Agree completely!

    • jen

      Brilliantly put I’d say an awful lot of people feel that way. An exceptional man in every time frame of his life, why choose to ignore the time when he showed the most courage and love. in any case, I hope the right amount of tom and effort going into the film so as to show those few who don’t know about Freddie or Queen what they’ve been missing.

  • donna

    I’m looking forward to seeing this movie.

  • Greg

    Sorry to disagree but as someone who was a fan from the very beginning (well, as much as a stateside person could be at that time!) I’m more interested in the Ibex (Mercury’s first band) through Live Aid period of the Freddie Mercury story.

    Contrary to Freddie’s reputation as the uber-confident frontman (I had the privledge of seeing Queen’s first US show in Denver when they opened for Mott The Hoople in 1974) he was, to my recollection, visibly nervous at the beginning of the performance. He would sort of stare at the floor sometimes with a very intense look on his face when he was singing and a few times during the show he would turn his back to the audience (not in a rude way) and step onto the drum riser for a brief moment as if to collect himself.

    This in no way diminished the performance or the music. I was standing no further than twenty feet from the stage and I can tell you- the man’s talent and charisma was a force of nature.

    This was a man who was out to conquer the world one city at a time and to do that a rock star had to go through America– who wouldn’t be a little nervous, budding world class rock star or not?

    Incredibly, the concert reviewer from the Denver Post did not seem to agree. He basically parroted Rolling Stone’s review of the bands first album, calling them something to the effect of “a poor man’s Led Zeppelin”!?! Typical rock critic groupthink.

    I want the movie to show the unbelievable indifference and adversity from critics like these (and most of America for that matter) that Mercury and Queen had to overcome before they “proved” themselves. Like any story, it makes the success at the end even better.

    I’m fully on board with Sacha Baron Cohen as an actor but if he can’t absolutely nail the vocals, I have no problem with a Mercury-voiced stand in. Or if need be– lip sync it to the original music. It’s not about Cohen’s virtuosity as a singer that I care about- use any illusion necessary- what’s important in the end is the story of Freddy Mercury, portrayed in a way that does justice to the man and his unparalleled talent.

    The producers are stopping at the perfect point in the Mercury and Queen story, Live Aid. The band was at a commercial and artistic low at that point in their career and that concert brought them to the verge of superstardom– End Of Chapter One.

    [Note on the music: I hope the movie covers SOME of the key music from the very early years from Queen 1 through Sheer Heart Attack]

    I’m not unappreciative of Freddie’s latter period, I just think that the early years need to be covered first. The commercially successful phase of the story coupled with the tragedy of Freddie’s illness is so long and complex that it could be a movie unto itself. As brilliant as he was as a performer, Freddie Mercury had his flaws as a human being and faced his share of criticism during Queen’s megastar years. This is the stuff of high drama.

    I don’t know how you can do justice to the Freddie Mercury story in just one movie, his life was too big for that. I want the WHOLE story but for now, I’ll settle for Chapter One.

    • Grace

      Yours is a very well thought out and written comment. I envy you were able to see Freddie & the rest of Queen live in the very early days!

      I would rather they use Freddie’s own vocals and let Sasha lip sync. I hope this film does well and they that they produce as good a sequel.

  • tina black

    I really do hope and pray,they do justice to this movie,and to throw years of music into one movie is going to really be hard for all that are invloved..i want a true story on how he got started,alot about him and his band members now hold your snickers,there were and still are a part of freddie.and ms mary to should have a part in it to as well as his mama and sister.keep this movie true to freddie,he kept his personal life from us then and we should and we all should respect him and his family
    im a 55 year old women with 5 grown kids,and 11 grands,and my grands are now listen to freddie music R.I.P my lil brother i miss you so much

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