Sacha Baron Cohen has been confirmed to play Freddie Mercury in an untitled biopic about the legendary Queen front man’s life, announced former band mate Brian May in a blog post on his website on Wednesday.
May’s announcement, which is sure to spark debate among Queen fans, marked the first news of the project in over three years, according to a report by Spin. The biopic was initially expected to start production in 2011, but after scheduling delays filming has been pushed back until the spring. The expected release date is now early 2014.
“I promised news of yesterday's Queen band meeting… Our main agenda was the Freddie film … which, I'm happy to tell you, is on course,” May wrote in the post. “The pieces are all falling into place, though we are now on a slightly later schedule - filming is now scheduled to start in the Spring, with Sacha Baron Cohen playing Freddie,” he said.
Mercury, born Farrokh Bulsara, died in 1991 of complications due to AIDS. He was diagnosed with the deadly illness in early 1987, but kept it a closely guarded secret from the public up until the day before his death. In interviews, Mercury vehemently denied that he had tested positive for HIV, despite continued efforts of tabloids who ruthlessly pursued rumors that he was dying. After his death, close friends of the singer revealed that he had told them much earlier.
The biopic’s team of financiers includes the well-known Hollywood producer Graham King, who has been credited with salvaging a number of risky films that became successful, including “Traffic,” “Gangs of New York,” and “Ali.”
In a statement in 2010, Graham said, "Queen is one of the greatest rock bands of all time, and a music brand all unto itself. Freddie Mercury was an awe-inspiring performer, so with Sacha in the starring role coupled with Peter's screenplay and the support of Queen, we have the perfect combination to tell the real story behind their success."
The role will be something of a departure for Cohen, who earned fame for his title roles in R-rated satires like “Borat” (2006), “Bruno” (2009), and “The Dictator” (2012). It has not yet been revealed whether or not Cohen will be singing in the role, but the production team has acquired the rights to use the band’s music in the movie – a first for Queen.
Cohen recently co-starred in the musical film adaptation of “Les Miserables,” where he played the role of corrupt innkeeper Monsieur Thénardier. The 41-year-old actor reportedly lost his voice during production for the film, in which all of the actors sang their takes live. “Les Miserables,” will be released in theaters Dec. 25, 2012.