LOS ANGELES—“I’ve got to hit the high notes. I’m buying those tight underpants,” Sacha Baron Cohen cracked about his coming role. He will play the Queen’s legendary frontman, the late Freddie Mercury, in a film to be directed by Stephen Frears and cowritten by Peter Morgan, both of whom gave us an award-winning film on the other Queen.
“I will be singing,” confirmed Sacha, a little more seriously this time. It was our first time to interview Sacha as himself. In our previous chats, he came fully costumed—as Borat, Bruno (he almost gave us a lap dance) and The Dictator. Each one was a hilarious session. But even talking as himself, Sacha was just as funny.
The Brit’s Borat moustache helped him land the role of the rock god, he joked. “I think that was the main reason that I got chosen,” Sacha said. “They don’t want to spend too much money on prosthetics and [fake] moustaches. That I can grow my own is going to be very significant.”
Sacha does not need to buy tight underpants right away. “We’re in the early days; we’re still working on the script,” he said of the untitled film to be produced by no less than Robert De Niro and Freddie’s former Queen bandmates, guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor, among others.
But Sacha was clear that the film will not cover Freddie’s entire life. “At the moment, it’s more about the… period of his life leading up to Live Aid and a bit after Live Aid.” Cowriting the screenplay with Morgan are Stephen J. Rivele and Christopher Wilkinson.
“The story of Freddie Mercury is fascinating,” the actor said. “He was a really interesting character. He had these incredibly traditional parents, who he didn’t come out to. He had a wife. He was one of the early celebrities who had to deal with getting AIDS in an era when it was a death sentence. He carried on performing—until the very end.
This biopic will only be Sacha’s seventh major feature film. “I can do only what I’m passionate about,” he declared. He enjoys film work so much, he considers it a hobby. “It’s not really a job. So, I don’t work much. That’s why I’m drawn to projects like this one.”
Fresh from his role as Thenardier in “Les Miserables,” where he and Helena Bonham Carter provided the comic relief, Sacha stressed that he does enjoy singing. “I have a gold record award on my wall in England, which I got when I was Ali G… the highest selling English rapper.”