Sadly, the Freddie Mercury biopic gets a little less promising with each development step. The long-standing assumption was that Sacha Baron Cohen would play the late Queen frontman based on a script by Peter Morgan, with the surviving members of the band (Brian May, Roger Taylor, and John Deacon) acting as producers. The band is still on board, but Cohen is gone, reportedly because he wanted to make a wild, R-rated tell-all film, while the band wants something a little more sanitized.
Enter Ben Whishaw (Skyfall, Cloud Atlas), who will likely be a fine performer to take on the role. And now a director has finally been found: actor turned director Dexter Fletcher (who played roles in Misfits, Stardust, and Kick-Ass) has been signed to make the film as his third directorial effort.
Fletcher’s second film, Sunshine on Leith, was also a music-related movie, but still a far cry from a film like this. (It is based on the record of the same name by The Proclaimers.)
Deadline says that Whishaw is still circling the role, and that Fletcher has taken meetings with the band to get oriented on the story, and their take on it. Sony has first-look rights, and the current schedule is to finally shoot next year.
The film, says the site, “will tell the formative coming of age story of the group, culminating in Queen headlining Live Aid in 1985.” The film does have full use of the band’s music (a benefit of having the surviving members as producers) but will shy away from dealing with one of the most significant aspects of Mercury’s life. The singer was one of the first high-profile sufferers of AIDS, and died in 1991 due to complications from the disease. Tragic as his early death was, Mercury’s final years did do a lot to change the public perception of AIDS, which at the time was still he subject of rampant misconceptions.
It’s easy to understand on one hand why Queen wants to keep the film focused squarely on Mercury’s time with the band as a whole, and there could be a whole movie oriented simply around the singer’s last couple years. But it’s disappointing to know that they’re really shying away from that part of the story. And with GK Films tapping a relatively untried and, to many, unknown director, the perception is that Queen is really getting its way and that we’ll get a film out of the deal that is ultimately far too safe. Hopefully I’m being too pessimistic, and there will be more grit in the film than we’re guessing at this point.