Rockers Queen decided against Sacha Baron Cohen playing their late bandmate Freddie Mercury on the big screen over fears the Brit was too funny for the part. The Borat star is said to have fallen out with the remaining members of legendary band Queen, who had script and director approval, and now drummer Roger Taylor has opened up about the doomed movie and Cohen's casting.
He says, "We felt Sacha probably wasn't right. We didn't want it to be a joke. We want people to be moved."
The much-anticipated biopic is believed to have since been shelved and Taylor admits there's not much hope for the project.
He adds, "I thought the music business was slow, but this has been like swimming in treacle. We need to step back now."
Cohen's writing partner Dan Mazer is convinced it was for the best that the funnyman failed to land the role as the tragic frontman, who died in 1991.
He explains, "It probably wasn't a right fit. The thing about Sacha is he is very sure about how he wants to do things. He is not a man to compromise or dilute things. If he felt he couldn't do it the right way, then he didn't want to do it."
Whoever said "marriage is easy" was clearly a lifelong bachelor. I Give It A Year, directed and written by Dan Mazer (who also penned Borat and Bruno), doesn't sugarcoat the rocky relationship between its lead characters, spouses Nat (Rose Byrne) and Josh (Rafe Spall). The dramedy follows the young newlyweds as they meander their way through the pestering, yet outlandish hassles that spring from their freshman year of marriage.
The comedy flick doesn't stoop to any lovey-dovey, vomit-inducing nonsense. The British film instead directly addresses the couple's struggle to connect with one another, a conflict that provokes both husband and wife to pursue interest in their old flames... while still hilariously attempting to keep their failed-from-the-start marriage somewhat intact.
The romantic comedy drags Rose Byrne away from her action-packed role in X-Men: First Class and throws her into familiar terrority in the comedy spectrum, reminding us of her outstanding performance in Bridesmaids.
With almost-laugh-out-loud jokes and a slew of good looking actors, I Give It A Year looks and feels a lot like Jason Segel's The Five-Year Engagement. So, if you're a fan of bumpy-marriage films, you can catch I Give It a Year during its limited release on August 9th and even sooner when it is avaliable on iTunes and VOD on July 3rd.
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"It was like something out of a Hugh Grant movie." That's something one of the array of insufferable, mean-spirited characters in Dan Mazer's romantic comedy I Give It a Year utters while describing a wedding, but the sentiment certainly echoes the very movie they're appearing in.
But don't go thinking this is a quality Hugh Grant romance set in London like Bridget Jones' Diary About a Boy or Love Actually. No, we're talking about a movie more along the lines of Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason or Nine Months or Did You Hear About the Morgans? I Give It a Year is a bad Hugh Grant movie that doesn't even give us the courtesy of giving us Hugh Grant.
Much like The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, I Give It a Year is a mainstream comedy that worked its way into the indie-friendly SXSW festival and made its presence unwelcome. That's not to say broad appeal comedy can't play well at SXSW (Drinking Buddies, a smart, funny comedy has been a prime example of that), it's that if you're a flick with distribution on your side and marquee names, you better earn your keep here in Austin.
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I Give It a Year, which debuted on over the weekend at SXSW, revolves around Natalie (Rose Byrne) and Josh (Rafe Spall), a couple who rushes into marriage, and to the surprise of no one, things turn sour fast. How fast, I have no idea, because the timeline in this movie jumps so frantically it might take me a year to figure it out.
It certainly doesn't help matters that Josh is an unmotivated writer (poor Spall is essentially just re-visiting his role as the goofy sap in One Day here) and that Natalie is a shrill, nasty career woman, or if we're supposed to give a s**t about either of these one-dimensional people and their horror show of a relationship.
Conveniently, Josh is still close with his ex, the down-to-Earth and cool Chloe (Anna Faris, who I officially fear may never leave rom-com hell). We know Chloe is down-to-Earth and cool because she doesn't wear makeup and works in non-profit. Additionally, Natalie meets a handsome, driven client at work named — wait for it — Guy (Simon Baker) and their sexual attraction simply cannot be denied. So much so that she takes off her wedding ring whenever she sees him. Are you in stitches yet? Couldn't you just positively die?
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I Give It a Year, at its core, is actually a really ugly movie packaged as a frothy romantic comedy. It tries desperately to be edgy by having raunchy humor, but it just comes off as crass and out of place. It is jam-packed with a variety of characters that are either despicable or downright unbelievable, or in the case of Stephen Merchant's Danny, Josh's lame, rude best friend that no one in their right mind would invite to get a cup of tea, let alone make their best man.
Incidentally, Minnie Driver plays Natalie's bitchy sister Naomi, but at least her marriage gives her a reason to be cranky. Danny is just a pointless d**khead whose main object is provide comic relief, but only earns uncomfortable groans, on and off screen. (Terribly disappointing, considering what a tremendous talent Merchant is).
All of these characters are so terrible (even Farris' overtly likable character is too much of a sad pushover to admire or root for) you won't care who they wind up with, a veritable kiss of death for a romantic comedy. While Mazer's direction is sleek, the writing is too predictable and too dreadful to make up for it. I Give It a Year might not be the worst rom-com you'll ever see, but it's probably one of the worst ones you would see at SXSW.
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[Photo credit: Working Title Films]
There's probably still someone somewhere that would fall for one of Sacha Baron Cohen's weird and wooly scenarios but let's face the facts: the days when Ali G. could snag an interview with Pat Buchanan or Gore Vidal are long gone. 2009's Bruno definitely let some steam out of Borat's tires not to mention the ensuing lawsuits. But it's refreshing to see Cohen and his Borat/Bruno cohort director Larry Charles flex their muscles in the fictional universe of The Dictator a vehicle that doesn't skimp on their signature cringe-worthy humor.
The world of The Dictator gives them the leeway to create crazy spectacles — at one point Cohen's General Aladeen rides down Fifth Avenue on a camel surrounded by a giant motorcade. Having a plot helps too; although part of the genius of Sacha Baron Cohen's schtick is how the viewer is made culpable by proxy by our amusement and horror at how he tricks and torments people who aren't in on the joke The Dictator continues the self-reflexive satirical bite. We're certainly not off the hook. Aladeen says and does truly outrageous things but they're also exaggerations of the world we live in. It might be a stretch to call Sacha Baron Cohen the British Lenny Bruce or George Carlin in a face merkin but rest assured that no topic is off limits. If you are offended by jokes about abortion rape feminists body hair race religion politics STDs war crimes ethnic cleansing necrophilia and/or bestiality don't even bother. However if you like the kind of comedy that makes you hide your face in your hands feeling like each laugh is being pried from you against your will you're in business.
Cohen eats up the screen as both General Aladeen and his incredibly dumb body double; the latter prefers the intimate company of one of his goats to a human while the former is a fairly stupid ruthless dictator whose own people are so disloyal to him that they actually ignore his commands to execute people. (He really likes to execute people.) When he arrives in New York City to attend a summit at the UN his uncle Tamir (Ben Kingsley) has the two switched so he can easily manipulate the "General" into signing a treaty to make Wadiya a democracy and reap the financial benefits. Aladeen finds refuge with Zoe a hairy-pitted activist who thinks he's a political dissident and is excited to be able to give him a safe haven in her touchy-feely Brooklyn grocery co-op. Instead of being typecast as another blonde dummy Anna Faris is finally given room to play as the wide-eyed naïf who takes Aladeen's very serious statements as jokes or simple miscommunications. She's a great foil to Baron Cohen who is easily half a foot taller than she is and has a wolfish grin. Their banter is often the most politically incorrect of the bunch but also the funniest.
Alas the plot. It's a bare bones situation to get a very broad character from A to B. Aladeen is obviously an outlandish mishmash of modern dictators; he spouts racist misogynist rhetoric endlessly and after a while...yeah we get it. However like all of Sacha Baron Cohen's humor The Dictator also takes a direct shot at Western countries (specifically the United States) which would be all fine and dandy if he didn't wedge an expository speech in about it as well. The problem with making a traditional narrative movie is that with some exceptions you've got to play within the guidelines. The Dictator isn't trying to do anything fancy; all it needs a few big beats and a neat ending to wrap it all up. It doesn't quite manage to tie it all together in a way that makes The Dictator more than an hour and a half or so of laughing and cringing.
Besides Faris and Kingsley there are a number of cameos by a very wide variety of comics and actors. Megan Fox plays herself Kevin Corrigan appears as a creepy dude who works at the co-op John C. Reilly is a racist security guard and Fred Armisen runs an anti-Aladeen café in New York's Little Wadiya district. The very funny Jason Mantzoukas has a large role as Nadal the former head of rocket science who was supposedly executed for not making Aladeen's nuclear warhead pointy. It's a good ensemble and hopefully Sacha Baron Cohen's next feature-length film will build on The Dictator's weaknesses.
The funnyman was writing the mockumentary, about a wannabe pop star who enters the annual European singing competition, with his production partner Dan Mazer - but the duo has decided to dump the project following months of hard work.
A source tells Britain's The Sun, "Sacha and Dan have been feverishly working on the film for a long time now. They'd completed a lot of preparatory work and had a team assisting them, but they've axed the idea. They felt that it wasn't working."
Baron Cohen was reportedly set to compete at Eurovision as his alter-ego Bruno but decided to invent a completely new character after retiring the Austrian fashionista.
The funnyman was set to compete as his Austrian fashionista Bruno in a mockumentary about the Eurovision Song Contest - but has decided to put his old alter-egos to rest.
Cohen and his writing partner Dan Mazer have now dreamed up a new character - a wannabe pop star desperate to win the annual European singing competition.
A source tells Britain's The Sun, "He and Dan thought it better for Sacha to dream up another character - and the scope for an oddball creation is huge.
The as-yet-untitled comedy has been approved by Hollywood studio bosses at Working Title and is expected for release in 2011.