The departure of Sacha Baron Cohen from a planned Freddie Mercury biopic left a sizable casting hole that the producers have now filled: Skyfall actor Ben Whishaw will play the Queen frontman in the upcoming movie, which Dexter Fletcher will direct, Deadline Hollywood reports.
Whishaw, an English actor, played Q in Skyfall, the latest installment of the James Bond franchise. He also appeared in Cloud Atlas and was one of six actors who depicted a version of Bob Dylan in Todd Haynes’ 2007 movie I’m Not There.
Fletcher starred in Guy Ritchie’s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels before making his directorial debut with the 2012 movie Wild Bill. His most recent project is Sunshine on Leith, a musical based on the songs of the Proclaimers. Fletcher has reportedly been meeting with surviving members of Queen with an eye toward starting work on the Mercury biopic next year. The film has the rights to a number of Queen songs, including “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “We Will Rock You” and “Another One Bites the Dust.”
Baron Cohen first signed on in 2010 to play Mercury before dropping out of the project over the summer. Queen guitarist Brian May later explained that the band felt that the comic actor’s personality was too big for the part.
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“What led us to that conclusion was the last three movies that he’s made – The Dictator, Les Misérables and Hugo – in which he makes outstanding performances, but they’re very much Sacha Baron Cohen performances,” May said. “And we thought there has to be no distraction in the Freddie movie. You have to really suspend that disbelief – the man who plays Freddie, you have to really believe is Freddie. And we didn’t think that could really happen with Sacha.”
Mercury died in 1991 of complications from AIDS.