'Bohemian Rhapsody' was one of the biggest hits of 2018 and took home four Oscars, but the road to getting the film made was fraught.
Oscar nominee Sacha Baron Cohen was attached to play Freddie Mercury for the best part of a decade but ultimately walked from the project over that old chestnut, "creative differences".
Rami Malek ended up winning the Oscar for the role, and in an interview with Classic Rock magazine, Queen drummer Roger Taylor said Baron Cohen would have been "utter shit" in the role of Freddie Mercury.
"I think he would have been utter shit. Sacha is pushy, if nothing else."
"He’s also six inches too tall. But I watched his last five films and came to the conclusion he’s not a very good actor."
Sacha Baron Cohen wanted the film to be a more accurate portrayal of the band, in comparison to the finished film which took major artistic liberties with the band.
The film drew criticism for playing fast and loose with the historical events that took place, such as dramatising Queen's role in the Live Aid concert.
The film states that Mercury was a hold-out and only agreed to do the concert at the last minute, but in reality, the band were always on board and had fully intended to play the concert.
Stephen Frears was one of the directors attached to direct the film, and said in 2018 “Sacha wanted to make a very outrageous film, which I would imagine Freddie Mercury would have approved of. Outrageous in terms of his homosexuality and outrageous in terms of endless naked scenes. Sacha loved all of that.”
Director Frears and Baron Cohen were in favour of a film that was “a gritty R-rated tell-all,” but Queen band members Brian May and Roger Taylor had a “certain amount of caution” over Cohen’s vision and feared it would not paint Mercury in a positive light.
Frears said, “You could always tell there would be trouble with the rest of the band because Sacha was so outrageous and they weren’t. They were much more conventional.”
Taylor conceded "I might be wrong there. I thought he was an utterly brilliant subversive comedian, that’s what he’s great at," adding, "I think Rami did a brilliant job in an almost impossible role.”
'Bohemian Rhapsody' ended up as a blockbuster and the soundtrack for the film ended up as the 6th-biggest selling album of 2019 in the bands native United Kingdom.