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Casting Freddie Mercury: Who should play the Queen frontman?

By and Emma Dibdin
With Sacha Baron Cohen having dropped out of his long-standing attachment to the Freddie Mercury biopic, reportedly over creative differences with Mercury's Queen bandmates, the search is on for a replacement.

Johnny Depp has been named as the frontrunner by bookies, but he's just one of several names that are now in the mix, so we've narrowed down our top six choices for the role of Mercury.

Johnny Depp

July 20, 1986 file photo, Queen lead singer Freddie Mercury is shown in Germany.

© PA Images

Freddie Mercury with Queen

Johnny Depp at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival - 'West of Memphis' - Premiere.

© Dominic Chan/WENN.com

Johnny Depp


Despite looking nothing like the Queen frontman, Depp is a hot tip for the role on star power alone. He's got singing experience from Sweeney Todd. He's shared a screen with Keith Richards, so acting alongside someone pretending to be Brian May will be a doddle. He's also got bona fide rock cred having recorded with Oasis, Shane MacGowan and Marilyn Manson.

Ben Whishaw

Freddie Mercury 'Queen' video shoot for 'the Great Pretender', Britain - 1987

© Richard Young/Rex Features

Freddie - the Great Pretender

Ben Whishaw

© PA Images / Ian West/PA Archive

Ben Whishaw


Having played Keith Richards, a version of Bob Dylan and Sebastian Flyte, we're confident that Ben can pull of the necessary mix of rock 'n' roller and foppish eccentric. And, believe it or not, Mr Whishaw can actually hold a note, singing for the part of Ariel in Julie Taymor's 2010 film adaptation of The Tempest. And like Freddie, you can lose yourself in his face for days and days...

Russell Brand

Freddie Mercury with his pet cat - 1988

© Richard Young/Rex Features

Freddie Mercury with his cat

Russell Brand, BRIT Awards 2007

© WENN

Russell Brand


He might seem too spindly to be Freddie, but we think he could pull off his early long-haired rocker years quite well. Brand played a musician in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and would be able to channel his own chequered past into depicting the singer's excesses. Post-Sachsgate, he also understands some of the media intrusion that Mercury had to deal with.

Adam Lambert

FREDDIE MERCURY SHAVING OFF HIS MOUSTACHE 1987

© RICHARD YOUNG/Rex Features

Freddie shaves off his moustache

Adam Lambert

Adam Lambert


Despite performing with Brian May and Roger Taylor, at 63 years old we don't see Free's Paul Rodgers as a serious contender, but having "replaced" the late Freddie for the 'Queen + Adam Lambert' live shows, the American Idol runner-up must be considered. A star on both sides of the Atlantic, May has repeatedly called him an "amazing artist" and "a very nice guy".

Hugh Jackman

'Queen' video shoot for 'the Great Pretender', Britain - 1987
Freddie Mercury

© Richard Young/Rex Features

Freddie shows off his distinctive style

Hugh Jackman arriving for the UK Premiere of The Wolverine, at the Empire Leicester Square, London.

© PA Images / Ian West/PA Wire

Hugh Jackman


Anne Hathaway may have got most of the plaudits, but the real revelation in Les Misérables was Hugh Jackman's incredible vocals. Of all the names on this shortlist, Hugh is the one who can best combine top-notch acting with a singing voice approaching the quality of The Great Pretender.

James Franco

Freddie Mercury

© PA Images

Freddie Mercury in concert

James Franco attends"The Branding Bee Presents The World Premiere After-Party Of 'Spring Breakers' Live From The Hive at The Ranch on March 10, 2013 in Austin, Texas.

© WireImage

James Franco


From Spider-Man to Tristan & Isolde, Pineapple Express to Eat Pray Love, few actors have the range of Franco. His turns as Allen Ginsberg in Howl, Scott Smith in Milk and Aron Ralston in 127 Hours show that he can inhabit a real-life character. Plus... he's James Franco!

Watch the Freddie Mercury 'The Great Pretender' music video below:

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