Yesterday, word surfaced that Sacha Baron Cohen had rejoined the long-in-the-works Freddie Mercury biopic and would serve as the film’s writer, director, and lead actor. The news came from Queen’s longtime manager Jim Beach during a speech at this week’s Artist and Manager Awards.
Turns out it was all a big joke.
According to Queen guitarist Brian May, Beach was merely kidding about Cohen’s participation and his words were misquoted by the press. In a posting on his website, May explained, “There’s a report … but it doesn’t mention a small joke that Jim threw in during his acceptance speech. He said that, in response to enquiries about the progress on the Freddie feature film, that Sacha Baron Cohen had been re-engaged to write, produce, and direct the film, as well as starring in all four major roles! I’m afraid some folks might have taken it seriously!”
After being cast to play Mercury for several years, Cohen left the project in 2013 due to disagreements with the surviving members of Queen over the film’s direction and tone. It was previously reported that Ben Whishaw, who you may know from films such as Skyfall (where he played Q), Cloud Atlas, and I’m Not There, was a favorite to replace Cohen in portraying Mercury. It’s unclear if that still remains the case.