K E Y P O I N T S
- Rami Malek took on the role of Freddie Mercury in ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ after Sacha Baron Cohen and Ben Whishaw dropped out from the project.
- The film covers Freddie’s life from when he was a teenager working at Heathrow in 1969, until the pinnacle of his career in Queen at Live Aid in 1985.
- Other members of the band, Brian May (Gwilym Lee), Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy) and John Deacon (Joseph Mazello) are all prominently featured.
- All of the original band members who are still alive were assistant producers on the film.
- The project’s original director was Bryan Singer, but he was fired for “unreliable behaviour”, amid reports he’d had numerous fall-outs with the cast and had failed to turn up to work. Dexter Fletcher directed the final two months of shooting.
- Freddie’s spectacular stage performances and eccentric outfits are recreated throughout the film.
- The last 20 minutes of the film are dedicated to recreating Queen’s set from 1985’s Live Aid, widely considered the greatest live performance in the history of rock music.
- During the film, Mike Myers plays a music executive who rejects the song ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, which is ironic considering that Mike’s recreation of the song in ‘Wayne’s World’ put the song back in the charts back in 1992.
S N A P V E R D I C T
Sometimes a film is made better simply because of the quality of the performance of a single actor, and Rami Malek’s turn as Freddie Mercury does just that. He may not have been the original choice for this biopic, but it was a stroke of luck for the producers that two other actors (Sacha Baron Cohen and Ben Whishaw) pulled out, as he has somehow managed to make this role very much his own - quite a feat considering the man he plays is the very definition of an icon.
Rami perfectly flip-flops between the flamboyant performer who loves being the centre of attention to an emotionally vulnerable and self-conscious man in the blink of an eye. Some of the best scenes in the film are between Freddie and the rest of the band, jumping from raging arguments to moments of creative genius.
As you’d expect, Queen’s music is front and centre, but it’s the painstaking efforts the producers have gone to in order to recreate some of the band’s most iconic gigs that really stand out. Everything from Freddie’s outrageous stage outfits to the Pepsi cups he would drink from on stage have been meticulously recreated. With Rami also completely owning the stage - particularly in the final segment, which recreates Queen’s 1985 legendary performance at Live Aid - many parts feel like you’re at a real-life Queen gig, and not sitting in the cinema.
However, in many ways the film is a victim of Freddie’s success. It would be hard to tell the story of any human life in just over two hours, let alone the life of such a legend, and this is where things sometimes fall short. The band’s uniqueness, their trend-setting style and often tense relationship with just about everyone (mainly themselves) is perfectly captured. The same goes for the emotional story arc around Freddie’s often complicated relationship with his family and his heritage. The scene where he reconciles with his father is one of the film’s most moving.
But for all of this, other key elements of Freddie’s life are left waiting in the wings. Sacha Baron Cohen reportedly dropped out of playing Freddie because he wasn’t allowed to explore some of the darker aspects of his personality, and you can understand that while watching the film. Drug abuse only gets the briefest mention, and for such a sexual being there is very little actual sex in the film. All of this is potentially because of a likely desire to make a family-friendly 12A film.
Then there’s Freddie’s homosexuality, which - with the exception of the moving scene when he comes out to his ex-fiancée and life-long friend Mary Austin - is barely mentioned. Likewise, Freddie’s ailing health after he was diagnosed with HIV is only discussed in two scenes.
However, while many will take issue with this part of his life being glossed over, some explanation as to why can be found in the film itself. In a scene where Freddie tells his bandmates about his diagnosis, he defiantly refuses to be defined by it, rejects any sympathy, and demands they work till his last day. You could argue his bandmates should be applauded for respecting his wishes 27 years on from his death.
T A K E H O M E M E S S A G E
Some may feel ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ doesn’t make quite as much of a statement as it could have, but Freddie Mercury was an entertainer who lived for making others happy, and this film is guaranteed to do that in spades.