Last month, Sacha Baron Cohen revealed that he walked away from starring in a Freddie Mercury biopic because of a conflict with the remaining members of Queen. Responding to the interview, guitarist Brian May called Cohen an “arse” in an interview with The Daily Mail Saturday.
Cohen signed on to play the rock star in 2010 and left the production in 2013. Though both sides initially reported that the decision to part ways had been amicable, Cohen told Howard Stern that the split occurred because he wanted to make a film about Mercury’s sexuality and self-destructive lifestyle, and the band wanted a broader appealing and more positive story.
“A member of the band—I won’t say who—said, ‘You know, this is such a great movie because it’s got such an amazing thing that happens in the middle of the movie.’ And I go, ‘What happens in the middle of the movie?’ He goes, ‘You know, Freddie dies.’ … I go, ‘What happens in the second half of the movie?’ He goes, ‘We see how the band carries on from strength to strength.’ I said, ‘Listen, not one person is going to a movie where the lead character dies from AIDS and then you carry on to see how the band carries on.'”
In an open response, May effectively called Cohen a liar, saying the band had high hopes for Cohen, but lost interest in working with him during the creative process.
“We had some nice times with Sacha kicking around ideas but he went off and told untruths about what happened,” May said. “We decided he wasn’t right for the role for very good reasons, which will become apparent if you watch what he’s done recently.”
May also denied the idea that the band isn’t interested in making a “gritty” or truthful film.
“Why would he go away and say that we didn’t want to make a gritty film?’ demands May angrily. “Are we the kind of people who have ever ducked from the truth? I don’t think so.”
According to Variety , May and Queen drummer Roger Taylor still hope to push the production forward without Cohen. May said the film has not yet cast a new Freddie Mercury, but they had at least one guy in mind.
“We’re hoping Ben Whishaw will do it,” May said. “He’s fabulous – a real actor.”