Queen’s Roger Taylor talks about the first version of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ once starred by Sacha Baron Cohen: “I think he would have been absolute S ***”
Roger Taylor, drummer for legendary English rock band Queen, doesn’t hold his tongue when it comes to the band’s relationship with Sacha Baron Cohen, the comedian behind beloved iconoclastic characters and tracks like Borat, Bruno, Ali G, and more .
In a recent interview with Classic Rock Magazine, the now 72-year-old Rock’n’Roll Hall of Famer opened up about working with Baron Cohen at the start of the group’s biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody– when the project was first announced in 2010, Baron Cohen was set to play frontman Freddie Mercury. But, as Taylor made clear, this relationship was not built to withstand the test of time.
“I think he would have been total shit,” Taylor said. “Sacha is arrogant to say the least. He’s also six inches tall. But I watched his last five films and I came to the conclusion that he was not a very good actor… I thought he was a very brilliant subversive actor, that’s why he is gifted.
Continuing, Taylor noted how satisfied he was with the ultimate version of the film, which was built around Rami Malek’s Oscar-winning performance. “I think Rami did a brilliant job in an almost impossible role,” he concluded.
In 2016 on an episode of Howard Stern, Baron Cohen explained why he left the project after six years of working on it. In his own words, he and the group had “artistic differences,” rooted in the fact that Baron Cohen wanted to show a grainy, more precise version of the story.
“Yeah absolutely [I wanted to get into Mercury’s sex life]”Baron Cohen said, responding to Stern.” There are amazing stories about Freddie Mercury, crazy stories. The guy was wild. He lived an extreme lifestyle. There are stories of little people with patches of cocaine on their heads walking around a party. It’s just an amazing story. But, you have to remember – and I get it – that they are a band and they want to protect their band’s legacy I understand that perfectly.
Agreeing that the safer version of the story makes “a film less interesting,” Baron Cohen went on to describe where the creative differences between the two camps began to clash.
“After my first meeting, I should never have continued,” he said. “A member of the group – I won’t say who – said, ‘This is such a good movie because there’s such an amazing thing going on in the middle of the movie.’ I said, ‘What’s going on in the middle of the movie?’ He says, ‘Freddie is dying.’ I was like, ‘Oh, so it’s kinda like pulp Fiction, where the end is the middle and the middle is the end? That’s right, it’s a wild movie! I never thought about it. He says, ‘No, no, no, this is a normal movie.’ “
Confused, Baron Cohen asked what would happen in the second half of the film if Mercury’s death happened in the middle. “He said, ‘Well, you know, we see how the band keeps getting stronger,’” Baron Cohen continued. “I said, ‘Look, nobody is going to see a movie where the main character dies of AIDS and then you will see how the band goes on.'”
While the final version of the film starring Malek didn’t end up going in that direction (it essentially ends at the end of Mercury’s life), the ethics of Queen’s preferred approach still have it. carried away… and Baron Cohen, for his part, is very understanding of that.
“I studied history in college – there is a type of biography called ‘hagiography’,” he said. “Basically that’s when, if you were a king, you’d want your story written. But you want to be the guy who saves the world – you don’t want your story written and someone else saving the world. So there’s this problem with any biopic – and I fully understand why Queen wanted to do this – if you’re in control of your life story, why don’t you describe yourself as well as you can?
So while Taylor may have viewed the potential Baron Cohen movie version as “crap,” it seems Baron Cohen wouldn’t be too upset with that assessment. “The remaining members are still great musicians – Brian May is a great musician. He wrote half the stuff. But he’s not a big movie producer, ”said Baron Cohen. “They were very specific about how they wanted to do it. But listen, at the end of the day it was really an artistic difference.
Read the rest of the coverage on Queen HERE.