The Freddie Mercury biopic – yes, that project that’s been stuck in development hell for over five years now – may finally be taking center stage. Anthony McCarten, who penned the script for last year’s The Theory of Everything, has been brought on to write the Queen front man biopic, according to Deadline. Hopefully McCarten sticks with the project, as Peter Morgan (Rush) was originally attached to write but later left the project after penning the first draft.
Morgan was not the only person previously confirmed who’s since dropped out. Dexter Fletcher (Wild Bill) was originally slated to direct as well as Tom Hooper. The most notable drop out was Sacha Baron Cohen. Cohen was cast to play Freddie Mercury from the start and was a driving force behind the movie’s development. The project began to break down when Cohen and the studio, including members of the band, had creative differences. Cohen was adamant on portraying Mercury as accurately as possible and also pushed hard for an R rating which would’ve allowed the film to dive deeper into the darker side of Mercury’s life, but neither the studio nor the surviving band members agreed with his vision and Cohen eventually dropped out.
The latest actor to be attached to star as Mercury is Ben Whishaw of Skyfall and Spectre fame. The Brit has also gained recognition for his roles in Suffragette and The Danish Girl as well as the BBC miniseries London Spy. Whishaw is a talented actor who we probably don’t see enough of but his casting as Mercury may come with a few raised eyebrows. For one, he doesn’t really look like Mercury and while that isn’t a deal-breaker, his personality may be. Mercury was charismatic, bold, and animated – traits not typically associated with Whishaw who we’re used to seeing play the subdued, dry, or awkward types. That’s not to say he’s a boring actor, but he hasn’t exactly displayed the gusto one would imagine is required to play the music icon.
While Cohen may have been a more fitting choice given his passion for the project as well as similar appearance and personality to Mercury, there’s no use lamenting. He’s gone and Whishaw is close to being on board if reports are true. It’ll be a very different role for him, but if he does sign on it’ll be a step in the right direction to get this long-gestating project from Sony and GK films off the ground.