EXCLUSIVE: Hot off directing the musical Sunshine On Leith, British actor-turned-helmer Dexter Fletcher has closed a deal to helm the movie on rock supergroup Queen, with frontman Freddie Mercury to be played Ben Whishaw. GK Films’ Graham King is producing, and Sony Pictures has first crack at the film. This has been a passion project for King for several years, and it started with Sacha Baron Cohen attached to play Mercury, the singular-voiced frontman. Fletcher, who’s repped by WME and Independent, made his directorial debut with the BAFTA-nominated Wild Bill before directing Sunshine On Leith, a musical based on the Proclaimers songbook. Before that, Fletcher became a familiar face acting in films that include Guy Ritchie’s Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels. Whishaw has been rumored to be getting the Mercury role for some time.
I’m told that Fletcher has been meeting the band and getting a feel for the Queen story, and that the intention is for the movie to get up and running next year regardless of whether Sony steps up. With the band’s songs part of the package, the pic will tell the formative coming-of-age story of the group, culminating in Queen headlining Live Aid in 1985. Queen’s performance is considered one of rock’s all-time great concert appearances. Mercury died November 24, 1991, of complications from AIDS, and while his death helped to remove the stigma of AIDS sufferers prevalent at that time and particularly in the rock music industry, Mercury’s last days won’t be the subject of the film. Script is by Peter Morgan and King’s producing with Tim Headington and Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal’s Tribeca Productions, and Queen Films. Among the tunes that are in the rights package are “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions,” “Another One Bites The Dust” and “You’re My Best Friend.”
Whishaw, who got his breakthrough in the adaptation of the serial killer novel Perfume, is playing Herman Melville in the Ron Howard-directed The Heart Of The Sea, the Warner Bros film that stars Chris Hemsworth about the actual whale attack that spawned Melville’s Moby Dick. He starred in Cloud Atlas and played Q in the 007 film Skyfall and will reprise that role in the next installment. He’s repped by CAA and Hamilton Hodell.