David Fincher says Sacha Baron Cohen looked "spectacular" as Freddie Mercury in his unmade biopic. Long before Rami Malek won an Academy Award for his performance in Bohemian Rhapsody, Baron Cohen was developing his own biopic. The Crown creator Peter Morgan was brought on board to develop the screenplay, while several directors were attached to the unmade biopic over the years, including Fincher, Tom Hooper, and Stephen Frears. In the end, Queen decided to go another route with the biopic.
In a new interview, David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin briefly spoke about Sacha Baron Cohen and his unmade Freddie Mercury biopic. Sorkin recently collaborated with Baron Cohen on The Trial of the Chicago 7, which is receiving Academy Awards buzz. In the movie, the actor plays Abbie Hoffman, which is something that Fincher didn't see right away. "At first I was really nervous [about the idea of Cohen playing Hoffman]. And then I found him to be so winning," said Fincher when discussing the movie with Sorkin.
The two went on to discuss Sacha Baron Cohen, which found them talking about how the actor almost portrayed Freddie Mercury on the big screen. David Fincher then asked Aaron Sorkin if he was ever able to see the test images of Baron Cohen as Mercury. Sorkin replied that he hadn't, which prompted Fincher to say, "Dude, you have to see... these photos are spectacular." Sadly, the photos were never released publicly, though many thought that the comedian was the best choice to play Mercury, due to their physical similarities. There were still a lot of people at the time who thought that the members of Queen had gone mad when it was revealed that they were collaborating on a biopic.
In the end, it didn't work out between Sacha Baron Cohen and Queen. Baron Cohen wanted to make "a gritty R-rated tell-all," but band members Brian May and Roger Taylor had a "certain amount of caution" over the vision. Stephen Frears recalled, "You could always tell there would be trouble with the rest of the band. Because [Sacha] was so outrageous and they weren't. They were much more conventional." Baron Cohen was going for something more realistic and a bit less Hollywood, which is not what the band wanted.
A lot has changed for Sacha Baron Cohen since he almost portrayed Freddie Mercury. The actor released Borat 2 late last year and could very well be up for an Academy Award this year for his performance in The Trial of the Chicago 7. Regardless, some Queen fans will always wonder what it would have been like had Baron Cohen took on the role of Mercury instead of Rami Malek. Bohemian Rhapsody has been repeatedly criticized for playing with history in order to make a better viewing experience in theaters. You can check out the interview with Aaron Sorkin and David Fincher over at the Director's Cut Podcast.