We learned in July that Sacha Baron Cohen was backing out of the lead role as Freddie Mercury due to creative differences with the band, but it seems his departure didn’t tank the project. Yesterday, Deadline reported that Ben Whishaw (Brideshead Revisited, Skyfall) has signed on to play Mercury, and the film will be helmed by British actor-turned-director Dexter Fletcher (Sunshine on Leith). GK Films will produce (along with individual investors, including Robert DeNiro), and Sony Pictures will have first look, but word is that Fletcher has met with the band and will proceed with the film regardless of Sony’s reaction.
The film will focus on the band’s formative years leading up to the famous Live Aid concert of 1985. Mercury’s death from AIDS six years later won’t be covered, and the overall tone will be more PG than fans might expect. Baron Cohen left because he wanted a grittier version of the Queen story, and David Fincher and Tom Hooper were rejected by the band as directors for similar reasons.