'Is it because I has a mankini?' Ali G creator to take on Queen

Sacha Baron Cohen to play Freddie Mercury in a film about the star's colourful life

As Borat, the hapless Kazakh television presenter, Sacha Baron Cohen became used to wearing a bushy moustache and skintight suits. Now the British comedian and actor is preparing to flex the Spandex once more as the Queen singer Freddie Mercury.

After months of rumours about an impending film treatment of the life and early death of the flamboyant frontman, the decision to cast Baron Cohen, the creator of comic characters including Ali G and Brüno, was revealed in a BBC interview by the guitarist Brian May.

"We have Sacha Baron Cohen, which will probably be a shock to a lot of people, but he's been talking with us for a long time. He has been in on this project since we started talking about it seriously a couple of years ago," said May, who added that neither he nor Roger Taylor, the other surviving member of the group, would appear in front of the camera. They will, however, direct the music.

The screenplay will be written by Peter Morgan, a colourful figure in his own right. The brains behind The Special Relationship, which will be shown on BBC2 tonight and stars Michael Sheen as Tony Blair and Dennis Quaid as Bill Clinton, also wrote The Deal, The Queen and Frost/Nixon. The son of two refugees – his father a German Jew who fled the Nazis, his mother a Catholic Pole who escaped the Soviets – Morgan now lives in Vienna with his wife, an Austrian princess.

The Mercury film, which is being co-produced by Robert De Niro's TriBeCa Productions, will focus on Queen's formative years and the period leading up to the celebrated performance at the 1985 Live Aid concert. Filming is due to begin next year, though it is still not known whether Cohen will sing.

Having found themselves in the wilderness after a decade as one of the biggest bands in the world, the appearance at Wembley helped breathe new life into Queen's declining fortunes. Their career had taken a nose dive in the United States, not helped by Mercury's cross-dressing vacuum-cleaner-wielding performance in the video for "I Want to Break Free", the irony of which was lost on large swathes of Middle America. The band then alienated a whole new generation of fans when they committed one of the cardinal sins of the politically aware mid-80s music scene by performing at South Africa's Sun City.

This made their show-stealing 21-minute set in front of a global television audience numbering hundreds of millions even more dramatic. The performance was recently voted the greatest ever live show.

Fans had become concerned over Mercury's increasingly gaunt appearance from 1988 and the once consummate showman was forced to issue a statement in 1991 confirming he had Aids. He died within 24 hours from bronchial pneumonia, aged 45.

Graham King, of GK Films, which is co-producing the new film, said Queen was "a music brand all unto itself". He said: "Freddie Mercury was an awe-inspiring performer so with Sacha in the starring role, coupled with Peter's screenplay and the support of Queen, we have the perfect combination to tell the real story behind their success."

Fans appeared to welcome news of Cohen's casting in the still untitled venture. "Baron Cohen is an intriguing choice. For one thing, he looks more like Mercury than any star I can think of," wrote a correspondent for the Queen International Fan Club.

Farrokh Bulsara, aka: Freddie Mercury

Born: 1946, Zanzibar

Religion: Zoroastrian

Height: 5ft 9in

Style: Gave up operatics and spangly leotards in favour of Nuremberg-style concerts and over-tight white T-shirts.

Best quote: 'Who wants to live forever?'

Sacha Noam Baron Cohen, aka: Ali G, Brüno and Borat

Born: 1971, Hammersmith

Religion: Jewish

Height: 6ft 3in

Style: Former Socialist Zionist youth star turned international sex symbol

Best quotes: 'I like sex!' (Borat); 'Is it because I is black?' (Ali G)

Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Transformers: Age of Extinction was the most searched for movie in the UK in 2014

film
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Ronson has had two UK number two singles but never a number one...yet

music
Arts and Entertainment
Clara Amfo will take over from Jameela Jamil on 25 January

radio
Arts and Entertainment
This is New England: Ken Cheeseman, Ann Dowd, Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins in Olive Kitteridge

The most magnificently miserable show on television in a long timeTV
Arts and Entertainment
Andrea Faustini looks triumphant after hearing he has not made it through to Sunday's live final

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
    Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

    Scarred by the bell

    The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
    Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

    Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

    Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
    The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

    The Locked Room Mysteries

    As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
    Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

    How I made myself Keane

    Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
    Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

    Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

    Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
    A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

    Wear in review

    A look back at fashion in 2014
    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

    Might just one of them happen?
    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?