The unconfirmed reports of Daniel Radcliffe replacing Sacha Baron Cohen for the role of rock legend Freddy Mercury in a biographical movie are sweeping the social media; especially after Entertainmentwise.com reported it earlier today with a 'hidden' source.
Regardless of the negotiation steps of this mammoth undertaking, the decision to replace Sacha Baron Cohen is a wise one. The 'creative differences' will probably remain behind the scenes but Queen and the Mercury Estate must now be extra careful about not repeating certain mistakes they notoriously made after Mercury's death: Any biographical attempt to feature Mercury's life must not have an internal auto-censorship mechanism. A life lived must be portrayed without a PR touch up. Warts and all.
Sacha Baron Cohen's acting and hardly risible comedic style alienates the 'other'. Therefore, his approach (and reputation) may have lacked the sensitivity required to portray a publicly closeted Mercury, who only revealed the fact that he was suffering from AIDS a short time before his death. The complexities that carry the weight of a Farouk Bulsara -- Mercury's original name -- from Zanzibar and the metamorphosis of how Mercury became a worldwide rock icon must be contemplated with utmost care.
Radcliffe would be a tremendous asset to the accurate portrayal of Mercury; so long as the script does not shy away from the truth. Mercury did not live a pedantic Sesame Street lifestyle and this is not Harry Potter. A correlation between his times and how far the LGBT communities have come in terms of social justice must be integrated into this biopic adventure through accurate descriptions, in-depth analysis and musical proficiency. Without cutting out the center pieces of his life.
If the documentaries after Mercury's death are any indication, remaining members of Queen generally shy away from talking about Mercury's personal life. Understandable perhaps from certain perspectives, but this predilection is not a biography make. Queen and the Mercury Estate will have to make difficult but wise choices to tackle not only Mercury's music legacy but his entire life with all of its complexity. They also have to keep in mind the 'anonymous' millions who have died of AIDS; the victims who were also suffering from the social stigma that was as cruel as the plague itself. (Liberace's biopic Behind The Candelabra is another great example of this topic; a film now garnering 15 Emmy nominations.) Mercury's life choices have to be addressed with a complex investigation and artistic courage. The adult Radcliffe can handle the monumental task at hand and so can the fans.
Twitter: @FuatAbdullah, e-mail:FtjAbdullah@gmail.com