The world's first major rock star to die of aids won't have aids in his first major biopic. Deadline Hollywood is reporting that Sacha Baron Cohen has signed a deal to play Freddie Mercury in a film written by Golden Globe winner and two-time Oscar nominee Peter Morgan who penned The Queen, Frost/Nixon, The Last King of Scotland, and Eastwood's forthcoming Hereafter.
Producers already have said the movie will not deal with Mercury having aids. Opting for a simpler, happier ending, they are stopping their story at Live Aid, in 1985, where Queen's performance rocked the world and continues to be voted the best rock gig of all time. Mercury tested positive for HIV in 1987 yet despite frequent speculation in the British press, he did not acknowledge having aids until one day before he died in November 1991.
Screenwriter Morgan could again mine the complexities and tensions between public/private persona, this time through a man who was less than forthcoming about the extent of his gay sex life and perhaps less than eager to discuss his 100% Parsi background. (Born Farrokh Bulsara in Zanzibar, he did not change his surname until he was 24 in England. How, for example, did being born and raised in Africa affect Mercury's much-condemned decision in 1984, to break the cultural boycott of apartheid South Africa and play Sun City?) Then again, the script may go soft, yielding another give-the-masses-what-they-want movie. In that case, expect a lot of Mercury's early 1970s relationship with Mary Austin, who remained his best friend for life. Mercury left Mary his mansion, most of his estate, and all his royalties; while giving Jim Hutton, whom he'd been with six or seven years at the time of his death, a mere half million pounds.
Sacha Baron Cohen played gay, awesomely, in Talladega Nights and flamboyantly in Bruno. His one song was a good reason to wake up from the otherwise sleepy Sweeney Todd.
This marks the first time the remaining members of Queen have licensed their songs for a movie about the band. Production on the film starts next year.