After months of rumors and wishful speculation, it seems that Sacha Baron Cohen has finally closed a deal to play Queen singer Freddie Mercury in an untitled film that Peter Morgan is writing, the actor's publicist has confirmed to TheWrap.
GK Films will finance the project, which GK's Graham King and Tim Headington will produce in partnership with Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal's Tribeca Productions, as well as Queen Films.
Morgan is already working on a script focused on Queen's formative years, leading up to the band's appearance at Live Aid in 1985, six years before Mercury died of complications from AIDS. Mercury's illness won't be the subject of the film, which is scheduled to begin production sometime next year according to Deadline, which first reported Baron Cohen's casting and other details of the long-gestating project.
Baron Cohen already has an uncanny resemblance to Mercury, and is also capable of showcasing the type of energetic flamboyance that the singer was famous for. It'll be quite the dramatic leap for the mainly comedic actor, but I have faith that Baron Cohen is the right man for the microphone.
Producers have already gotten the hard part out of the way and secured a rights package for many of Queen's signature songs, including "Bohemian Rhapsody," "We Will Rock You," "We Are the Champions," "Another One Bites the Dust" and "You're My Best Friend."
It's unclear whether Baron Cohen will sing those hits himself, or whether Mercury's one-of-a-kind vocals will be used.
Regardless, it's the first time that Queen's surviving members have licensed songs and music publishing rights for a movie about the band, and they formed Queen Films to be a part of the project's production team. They previously supplied their songs to "We Will Rock You," the long-running stage musical on London's West End.
The star of "Borat" and "Bruno" is currently filming Martin Scorsese's 3D drama "Hugo Cabret," which is also a GK Films production. He's also attached to "The Dictator," a comedy that will see the actor playing dual roles as a goat herder and a deposed dictator who gets lost in the U.S.
Morgan's latest effort, "Hereafter," recently debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival under the direction of Clint Eastwood.
GK Films has "The Town" opening tomorrow via Warner Bros., and "The Tourist" opening on December 10 through Columbia.
Baron Cohen is represented by WME, while UTA and Independent Talent Group represent Morgan.