It seems nearly impossible that anyone could accurately portray an artist as legendary as Freddie Mercury, but according to Roger Taylor, Sacha Baron Cohen was a particularly bad fit for the job. In a recent interview with Classic Rock magazine, the Queen drummer said the comedian would have been “utter shit” had he wound up portraying Mercury in the biopic Bohemian Rhapsody.
“I think he would have been utter shit. Sacha is pushy, if nothing else,” Taylor said. “He’s also six inches too tall. But I watched his last five films and came to the conclusion he’s not a very good actor.”
“I might be wrong there,” he backtracked. “I thought he was an utterly brilliant subversive comedian, that’s what he’s great at. Anyway, I think Rami did a brilliant job in an almost impossible role.”
Cohen was set to play Mercury when the film was announced in 2010, but left the project in 2013, claiming that Taylor and Queen guitarist Brian May “wanted to protect their legacy as a band” rather than accurately portray the darker bits of Mercury’s life. Rami Malek ended up landing the role, and won an Oscar for his performance — though the film was criticized for altering some of the details of Mercury’s life (like when he told his bandmates he tested positive for HIV) for dramatic effect.
Taylor addressed these criticisms in the conversation with Classic Rock, arguing that the biopic — which finally hit theaters in 2018 — only altered details in order to fit a monumental story into one film. “When you’re making a movie, which is approximately a hundred minutes long, you have to mess with the timeline to make it work,” he said. “The movie has to work, that’s priority one.”
If Mercury’s bandmates were worried about getting too gritty in Bohemian Rhapsody, they certainly haven’t been concerned about being honest in their recent interviews. in an October episode of Consequence Podcast Network’s Kyle Meredith With series. Taylor said that anti-vaxxers “must be ignorant and stupid,” and May got in hot water last month for wondering if Queen would be “forced” to have a transgender person in the band in today’s “atmosphere of fear.”
Meanwhile, despite being a box office smash, Bohemian Rhapsody is facing controversy of its own: 20th Century Fox is claiming the film actually lost money, to the tune of $51 million.