The Freddie Mercury biopic has suffered several major roadblocks thus far, the most significant being Sacha Baron Cohen’s departure from the project due to creative differences. After a long time languishing in development, however, the project has finally started gathering momentum again with the announcement of a new writer.
According to Deadline, Oscar-nominated screenwriter Anthony McCarten has been hired to tackle the screenplay. McCarten was the scribe behind The Theory of Everything, the 2014 biographical drama based on the life of theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, a movie that garnered critical success and triple Oscar glory in 2015. As for the man who will play Freddie Mercury, Ben Whishaw remains the top choice to play Queen’s iconic frontman. The current working title of the film is Bohemian Rhapsody, a title that refers to Queen’s most famous song of the same name. Graham King’s GK Films is combining with Queen Films to bring the biopic to the big screen, and the remaining members of Queen themselves will be producers too.
Now the project needs a director. Tom Hooper and Dexter Fletcher were both close to signing on to helm the picture, before dropping out of the running. Stephen Frears and David Fincher were also rumored to be in line to direct. Ben Whishaw is currently on screens in the 24th James Bond adventure Spectre, and featured heavily in a busy 2015 with The Muse, The Lobster, and Suffragette. The actor was previously linked to the project back in 2013, so seeing his name back in the mix is no surprise.
Speaking to Time Out London last year, Whishaw confirmed that the film was undergoing difficulties. At the time, he was doing press for Paddington, and he kept his cards close to his chest, but the fact he is still featured in some way bodes well for the project — if it can retain its balance.
“Actually, I don’t know what’s happening, it seems to be on the back-burner. It was going, then there were problems getting the script working.”
Brian May, the guitarist for Queen, revealed brief details of his meeting with Whishaw. He spoke of the difficulty in casting for such a pivotal role — after all, Freddie Mercury was one-of-a-kind — and, in cryptic words, it seems May believes Whishaw has the potential to revive Mercury for the big screen.
“We’ve been talking to Ben and we’re very keen and last time we spoke he was very keen. Casting Freddie is hard. It’s a lot of things we need, but we need to get his essence.”
Production rolls on, and the Freddie Mercury biopic edges ever nearer. With a script in the works, and a potential leading man cast in one of the most sought-after roles in Hollywood, expect some more concrete news to drop in due course.
The film itself is expected to chronicle the early lives of the band, culminating in Queen’s blistering performance at Live Aid 1985, not with Mercury’s premature passing due to complications with the AIDS virus in 1991. The concert had a global audience of 1.9 billion across 150 nations, and was one of the greatest television broadcasts of all time. Queen’s performance at Live Aid 1985 has since been voted by more than 60 artists, journalists and music industry executives as the greatest live performance in the history of rock music.
The film has the rights to several Queen classics including Bohemian Rhapsody, We Will Rock You, and Another One Bites The Dust. Casting rumors are still circulating, but rumors have Johnny Flynn playing Queen’s drummer Roger Taylor, and Gemma Arterton playing Mary Austin, Mercury’s long-time partner. Expect these details to possibly change in due course, but with some steam behind the project, we might see the revival of Freddie Mercury sooner, rather than later.
[Featured photo via Queen Rock Montreal/Hollywood Records]