A biopic about Freddie Mercury has been kicking around Hollywood since 2010, when it was revealed that Sacha Baron Cohen would portray the Queen singer. However, Baron Cohen dropped out of the film in the summer of 2013, and in March 2014, the director hired to helm the biopic also departed the gestating project. Since then, the Mercury film has sat in stasis, but on Wednesday, GK Films announced that they had hired a new screenwriter to kickstart the movie, Deadline reports.
The Theory of Everything scribe Anthony McCarten has stepped in to write a new script for the biopic, with Sony Pictures potentially on board to produce the film. Howver, McCarten isn’t the first Oscar-nominated screenwriter to attempt to write the Mercury film: Frost/Nixon playwright Peter Morgan penned the first draft of the movie – now tentatively titled Bohemian Rhapsody – but the project still didn’t secure a green light.
Since Baron Cohen’s exit over “creative differences” with Mercury’s Queen band mates, who will also serve as producers on the film, Spectre actor Ben Winshaw has been the frontrunner to take over the role of Mercury. Winshaw was initially named as the favorite to play Mercury in December 2013, and while the actor hasn’t officially signed onto the project, Deadline writes it’s still his role to lose. No director has been hired yet either.
In December 2013, Queen’s Brian May talked to Rolling Stone about why Baron Cohen left the project, adding that producers felt the actor’s persona threatened to overshadow his portrayal of Mercury. “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.”