Will or won't 'Borat' play Freddie Mercury in Queen biopic?

Within an hour of one outlet's about-face on Cohen's involvement, another confirmed statements that he would write, direct and star.

March 29, 2015 14:42
1 minute read.
Sacha Baron Cohen.

Sacha Baron Cohen.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Conflicting reports emerged over the weekend regarding Borat star Sacha Baron Cohen's involvement in a biopic film depicting the life and tragic death of rock band Queen's front man, Freddie Mercury.

On Thursday, Queen manager Jim Beach used his acceptance speech for the Peter Grant award as an opportunity to boast of the actor's part in the project.

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“You have probably followed the saga of the famous Queen-Freddie Mercury biopic...we have now managed to persuade Sacha Baron Cohen to write, produce, and direct this movie, and he has also agreed to star.”

Cohen, who bears a striking resemblance to the legendarily flamboyant Mercury,  has been linked to the project for seven years, generating much expectation, but a Saturday report by Spin magazine quoted Queen guitarist Brian May as claiming that  Beach's statements indicating the actor's undertaking of the film's lead role were in jest and not to be taken seriously.

May claimed that Beach had joked about Cohen's playing "all four major roles," and that his remarks were mistakenly taken as fact.

Yet the apparent certainty of other news outlets on the issue has cast doubt on the sudden about-face.

Within an hour of the Spin magazine reversal on its previous confirmation regarding Cohen's long awaited role, Time magazine not only reported that Cohen would star as the pop-culture icon, but cited Beach's aforementioned comments that he would also be writing, directing and producing the film.

Time's version of the story reported on some disagreements between Cohen and the band, such as the latter's preference for a softer telling of the lead singer's life rather than the former's desire for a more graphic and gritty profile of Mercury, which would likely have included darker themes such as his terminal illness and eventual death from AIDS in 1991. Yet no retraction of the report was issued, leaving some scratching their heads.

The London-born Cohen, the son of an Israeli mother, has garnered acclaim, scorn and courted controversy by coaxing out uncomfortable truths and situations via his outlandish characters, which include a cartoonish anti-Semitic Kazakh reporter, a depraved Austrian media personality and a Gaddafi-eqsue North African dictator.

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