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Sacha Baron Cohen walks away from Freddie Mercury biopic

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The Freddie Mercury biopic was thrown into disarray after Borat star Sacha Baron Cohen walked away from the project. Reports suggest that Baron-Cohen clashed with the surviving members of Queen over the way the late singer would be portrayed in the film.

Baron Cohen has been associated with the project since September 2010. He was keen to emphasise the more salacious aspects of the outrageous frontman's lifestyle. Mercury kept his sexuality hidden from the public during his lifetime and Queen members wanted a more family-friendly biopic of Mercury as a rock star rather than a troubled personality.

It would have been Cohen's first major dramatic role after a string of hit comedies. He had brought in scriptwriter Peter Morgan presumably on the understanding that a writer who won an Oscar for The Queen could perform similar feats with a script about Queen. Cohen had also approached David Fincher and Tom Hooper as potential directors.

Brian May and Roger Taylor maintained a close interest in the film and were concerned at the direction Cohen was heading. The actor's reputation has been built on his willingness to be as outrageous as possible on screen. Mercury's life certainly had the material to continue that trend, but the Queen members preferred the story to focus on the band's career rather than Mercury's lifestyle excesses.

Queen's members may still be sensitive about the video for 'I Want To Break Free' in which they dressed in drag. British viewers loved the camp Coronation Street references, while the band's conservative US fanbase immediately concluded that these guys were not the kind of uncomplicated rock n roll stars that they wanted. Queen's US sales tanked.

Ironically, Michael Douglas's recent portrayal of Liberace in Behind The Candelabra demonstrated that there is an audience for warts-and-all portrayals of closeted gay superstars with an outrageous private life.

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