The Sacha Baron Cohen-headlined Freddie Mercury biopic is actually going to happen, it sounds like. The prospect delights me, not only because I’m a Queen fan myself, but also because I think Cohen is such a skilled performer. We might be in store for one of the great biographical performances.
I remember I was on the road heading down to Auburn, Ala., to see the Tennessee Volunteers play the Auburn Tigers in football. That was when I first heard Queen’s greatest hits album. I still remember how dazzled I was. Take the song “We Will Rock You.” I couldn’t believe someone wrote that. Until that moment, I thought it was just something you did at sporting events. But no – someone conjured that modern-day stadium chant from the ether, and best of all, it had lyrics! As I listened to the rest of the band’s most famous songs, I continued to marvel. “Another One Bites the Dust.” The steamy rockabilly diddy “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.” And my perennial favorite song, “Killer Queen.”
It came as no surprise to me that the band members themselves were all multitalented and often well educated. Guitarist Brian May earned his PhD in astrophysics in 2008. He also built his own guitar. Mercury himself had a degree in graphic design and conceived of the iconic crest that accompanies the band’s logo. John Deacon used to build his own equipment. Roger Taylor formed his first band when he was 7.
I loved Queen from the get-go, but they also found a separate route into my heart by way of film, as they contributed the soundtrack to the cult sci-fi flick Flash Gordon. Watch the following battle scene, and if you can make it through the 2:20 mark without pumping your fist, then I applaud you:
(Side note: It’s impossible to over-praise the mighty Shakespearean Brian Blessed, who devours the role of the winged warrior Voltan. I digress, but here’s his best scene from Kenneth Branagh’s stellar Henry V:)
Anyway, let’s talk about Sacha Baron Cohen.
We’ve all heard the old adage that dying is easy, comedy is hard. Well, I’m a big believer in that idea. Mainly, I think that great comedians already traffic in vulnerable self-discovery to such a great degree that it’s a natural step for them to move into a dramatic role. In Cohen’s case, I admire the hell out of his acting. He commits to his characters with a mania unseen since Andy Kaufman, and furthermore, he packs his performances with detail and precision. It’s a cliché to say that a character actor “disappears” into a role, but Cohen really does. Look no further than any of his old Ali G Show performances:
For the role of Freddie Mercury, Cohen will be able to call on a similar breed of showmanship, especially for the concert scenes. My friend Alan Hawkins once said of Las Vegas-era Elvis Presley, “He was a superhero.”
I feel the same way about Mercury. To wit:
Author: Tony Lazlo, CC2K Staff Writer
Robert J. Peterson is a writer and web developer living in Los Angeles. A Tennessee native, he graduated from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. He’s written for newspapers and websites all over the country, including the Marin Independent Journal, the Telluride Daily Planet, CC2KOnline.com, Offscreen, and Geekscape.net. He co-hosts the podcasts Make It So and Hiram’s Lodge. He’s appeared as a pop-culture guru on the web talk shows Comics on Comics, The Fanbase Press Week In Review, Collider Heroes, ScreenJunkies TV Fights, and Fandom Planet. He’s the founder of California Coldblood Books.