Saturday, April 18, 2015

Benedict Cumberbatch Wanted to Play David Bowie in Stalled Freddie Mercury Biopic

By Alison Herman on Apr 17, 2015 12:00pm

The Freddie Mercury biopic has been stuck in development hell for nearly a decade. Until yesterday, the most recent update Queen fans had to go on was the news that Sacha Baron Cohen had not signed on to write, produce, direct, and star in the film; manager Jim Beach had simply said so at the Artist and Manager Awards on March 26 as what Brian May called a “small joke.” Now that Wikileaks has made last year’s leaked Sony emails publicly available, however, there’s some new information on a certain hopeful costar — and Amy Pascal’s blind adoration for “Under Pressure.”

The now-deposed chairperson of Sony’s Motion Pictures Group evidently met with Sherlock star, whitewashed Star Trek villain, and biopic favorite Benedict Cumberbatch in January 2014. A follow-up email from Tracey Jacobs, a partner at the United Talent Agency and co-head of its talent department, has the same found-poetry style that makes so many of the hacked emails such a bizarrely entertaining read (emphasis ours):

Benedict loved you.
Hed be right for cleopatra and god knows what else.  He mentioned something about bowie.
He loved you.  And you? Xo

That would presumably be the same Cleopatra, starring Angelina Jolie, that was at the center of one of the more memorable exchanges of the Sony leak. While Pascal and producer Scott Rudin’s thoughts on that project are well known, Cumberbatch wanting in on the Mercury film is news. The actor has, however, expressed a desire to play the musician before; less than three months after his meeting with Pascal, he described Bowie as his dream role in an interview with British Airways’ in-flight magazine, High Life:

The hardest character to play? WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. ‘There is such moral ambiguity there. Also, he wouldn’t meet me although we had an email relationship to try to get his perspective.’ The character he’d most like to play? ‘David Bowie.’

Take a moment to appreciate that a conversation about the man who played WikiLeaks’ founder onscreen ended up on… WikiLeaks, then let’s get back to the emails.

Pascal then passed on the news in an email to Graham King, a producer of several Martin Scorsese films, including Gangs of New York and The Departed, as well as Argo and World War Z. She memorably refers to Cumberbatch as “cum batch,” an abbreviation that manages to be funnier than anything this parody name generator could come up with:

Benedict cum batch wants to play bowie
Graham’s response was… less than enthused. In fact, he seems to assume that Pascal hasn’t even read the script, penned by The Queen and Frost/Nixon writer Peter Morgan! Burn!:

He’s not a character in script.
Let’s talk after you’ve had a chance to read it.

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