The long-gestating Freddie Mercury biopic, tentatively titled Bohemian Rhapsody, has struggled to pin down a director and star since producer Graham King birthed the project eight years ago. Borat star Sacha Baron Cohen was long attached to play the iconic Queen frontman, but suddenly dropped out in 2013 over creative differences surrounding the production. Cohen’s departure has left the project in the dreaded “development hell” in the years since.
The Mercury biopic even found a replacement for Cohen in Ben Whishaw (Skyfall), but was never able to move into the production phase with him in the leading role due to delays. The director’s chair has seen a similar series of changes, with British actor/director Dexter Fletcher (Hotel Babylon) set to direct before he withdrew in 2014. However, the project may have finally settled on the two biggest roles in the production.
The Wrap is reporting that Mr. Robot star Rami Malek is in talks to portray Mercury in the upcoming biopic, with Bryan Singer (X-Men: Apocalypse) in talks to direct. Singer has since confirmed his involvement on his Instagram page. Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon) remains tabbed as the screenwriter, but according to The Wrap it’s Anthony McCarren (The Theory of Everything) who “handled the latest version of the script.”
The Mercury biopic will be the first leading role on the big screen for Malek, who is fresh off his first Emmy Award win for his mesmerizing portrayal of mind-warped hacker Elliot Alderson on Mr. Robot. Malek has previously appeared in all three Night at the Museum movies as Ahkmenrah and also appeared in Oldboy and The Master. Singer, meanwhile, would be entering uncharted territory in directing a biopic, though it would not be his first time directing a movie based on true events – he directed the World War II period piece Valkyrie with Tom Cruise in 2008.
Malek’s addition to the cast will be welcome for those familiar with his work on Mr. Robot, as he has proven an ability to handle a role with the kind of range necessary to portray a larger-than-life personality like Mercury’s. With surviving Queen members Brian May and Roger Taylor staying on as the movie’s music producers, Malek will be in good hands as far as having people to consult on accurately portraying the Queen frontman.
Until the movie finally sees its release, the concern that will hang over the project is the reasons for Cohen’s departure from the lead role. He appeared to be the perfect actor to portray Mercury and bring his persona to life on the big screen, but Cohen reportedly wanted to deliver a more R-rated performance while the surviving members of Queen wanted a more restrained depiction. It appears that producers are going with the latter form of portrayal, but that would not be Malek’s fault. The talent involved gives reason for optimism that Bohemian Rhapsody will ultimately be a successful production.
Bohemia Rhapsody is tentatively expected to arrive in 2017. We will bring you more information as it becomes available.