Why Bohemian Rhapsody Almost Bit the Dust: Inside the Controversial Freddie Mercury Movie

Queen fans got a fresh look at Rami Malek’s take on legendary rockstar Freddie Mercury in the new trailer for Bohemian Rhapsody, which dropped Tuesday. And while the movie looks promising, it’s been quite the journey to get to the finish line, with over eight years of casting and directorial struggles, as well as creative differences plaguing the project.

The movie chronicles Queen from 1970, when Mercury teamed with Brian May and Roger Taylor, until the band’s performance at Live Aid in 1985, six years before the singer died of complications from AIDS.

in 2010, Queen guitarist Peter May publicly confirmed the project’s development following rumors it was in the works. He announced comedian Sacha Baron Cohen would be portraying Mercury, a decision he told BCC “would shock a lot of people.”

Cohen unexpectedly quit the project in 2013, following a dispute with the band members over the film’s focus. Speaking to Howard Stern, Cohen claimed that May’s intentions for the biopic centered around protecting the band’s legacy rather than a “gritty R-rate tell-all centered around the gifted gay singer,” according to Deadline.

“A member of the band said: ‘You know, this is such a great movie because it’s got such an amazing thing that happens in the middle,’” Cohen told Stern, alluding to Mercury’s death, “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 see a movie where the lead character dies from AIDS and then you see how the band carries on.”

Following Cohen’s comments, May shot back, calling the Borat star an “arse,” claiming A Very English Scandal star Ben Whishaw would be replacing the comedian. “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,” he told the Daily Mail.

Whishaw never took on the role, with Malek officially cast in 2016.

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