The long-awaited Queen biopic, released Nov 3rd, 2018, is a fascinating story of one of the most influential rock groups in rock history, and arguably the greatest rock singer ever. But there are a few things about the move and the band’s history the average fan might not know.
The pivotal opening scene
It wasn’t filmed at Wembley Stadium! That’s because it no longer exists. The filmmakers had to recreate it on an airfield in London. Everything in this opening sequence was meticulously crafted to be as authentic as possible, from the band members’ looks and gestures right down to the little details. Anyone interested can find a plethora of YouTube videos like this, with side by side comparisons.
Even those Pepsi cups on Freddie’s piano weren’t a product placement!
It was part of this strict adherence to detail, which included the air kiss Freddie sent to his mother, during the performance. Speaking of trying to replicate this legendary performance Malek has said:
“That’s something we tried to get move for move, even just gesture for gesture perfectly. It felt like I had it in my bones and I didn’t want to keep going back to it. It felt like sometimes you would lose a little bit of the authenticity if you tried to nail it so perfectly.
Things won’t exactly always match up, there might be a hint of something that’s off, but I think that kept it feeling really alive and in the moment and it was better to sacrifice it that way, but yeah, I was watching it non-stop.”
Commitment to the character
Rami Malek was so devoted to understanding & portraying Queen frontman Freddie Mercury in the biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” that he flew to London to begin researching the rock star’s life and career before the movie even secured funding to go into production. He was obsessive in his study of interviews and performances of the rock legend, claiming he’s watched Queens 1985 Live Aid performance over 1,500 times. It was important for Malek to “understand the [different] sides of him,” from his brash entertainer persona to his more “reclusive” side behind closed doors.
“It was a challenge just to correlate who this person was,” Malek said, someone who had grown up in Zanzibar and got shipped off to school in Bombay, and upon his return to Zanzibar, fled a revolution with his family and went to London. That type of childhood is emblematic of someone who is starving for identity.”
Malek’s movement coach, the London-based coach and choreographer Polly Bennett, spoke to Billboard about the complex process that she and Malek went through for the film. “Freddie was a long-distance runner at school and a boxer,” Bennett explained, referring to Mercury’s kinetic stage presence. “This gives us a reason why Freddie ran across the stage and punched the air, and allows me to explain to Rami, This is why that character moves the way that he does. It’s interesting that Freddie only did solo sports, rather than football or rugby or any sort of team sport. In itself, that creates a physical attitude.”
Some of the details were changed to suit the storyline
For instance, in the movie, the members weren’t sure about performing in LiveAid, because they were estranged and hadn’t performed together in a long time. The time in between their work didn’t last for more than a year. They released The Works in February 1984 and then completed a major tour. They’d had some difficulties and disagreements in the past, but they weren’t unprepared. Playing such a short set, during daylight, without a regular warm-up and opening however was a whole, new challenge, to which they rose majestically.
Also, Queen didn’t actually break their contract with EMI / Elektra, though they did indeed have to push to get Bohemian Rhapsody played on the air, and Freddie did appear on the Kenny Everett show in order to get the ball rolling. Queen stayed with EMI and in fact recorded eleven more albums with the label.
Rami was initially as terrified of the costumes as he was of performing as Freddie!
“There was one thing I was concerned wearing, and that was the leotard. There’s a harlequin one, but the one I was worried about the most was the sequin one because it really leaves nothing to the imagination. Not only are you walking out there basically naked, but then you have to strut on stage with the utmost confidence.”
He was probably happy there were no scenes featuring that black lightning bolt costume!
Malek dove in, embracing the flamboyant expression the role required. “At one point, you just have to say, ‘Well, you gotta do it. If you’re going to emulate him, there is no fear on stage.” By the end of shooting Malek had formed such a connection to the stage fashions that he asked the costume department to make him a copy of the sequin leotard in red. (We know what Rami is wearing to next year’s Halloween parties!) He also had his Freddie teeth cast in gold, saying he thinks Mercury would’ve been amused.
Some of the singing was recorded by Marc Martel
While some of the concert scenes were recorded with a blend of Rami’s and Freddie’s voices for an authentic feel, Marc was heavily featured. He’d sent recordings of his covers to Brian Mary and Roger Taylor and they were impressed enough that he performed in a tribute, The Queen Extravaganza in 2012. They hired me to do some of the singing in the movie and give the audience an immersive experience and not be able to tell where the singing is coming from. It is the make the audience believe they are really watching Freddie Mercury sing.”
Marc laid down his vocals at the Abbey Road studio before Malek started working on the film. The music was prepared before shooting so that it could dictate the action.
Mike Myers makes a full-circle appearance
Unrecognizable with curly hair, sunglasses and a beard, Myers cameos as a EMI Executive Ray Foster. “No-one is going to be head-banging in the car to Bohemian Rhapsody,” he’s dead pans. Myers already listened to, and sang, Bohemian Rhapsody in character, in opening of the 1992 comedy Wayne’s World. Wayne and his friends head-banged to the tune in their flame decorated AMC Pacer. This pivotal and hilarious scene reintroduced the iconic track to a whole new generation. The song returned to the chart at number two in 1992 and Queen’s music experienced a resurgence in general.
Queen guitarist Brian May revealed that while filming Wayne’s World, Mike Myers contacted the band to see if they could get approval on the “Bohemian Rhapsody” sequence from Freddie himself. According to May: “I didn’t know Mike Myers, but he rang me up out of the blue and said, ‘We’ve done this amazing sequence in our new film—can we have your approval?’ I took it around to Freddie, who was not in a good state at that time. He was confined to his bed, but I took it around and played it to him and he loved it. Strangely enough, the humor in it was quite close to our own. Because we did that kind of thing in the car, bouncing up and down to our own tracks!” Mercury died three months before the movie was released, but he did see and approve of the scene.
The film had more than one director.
Bryan Singer (img) was initially hired and worked on it almost from the beginning to weeks before production was set to wrap. 20th Century Fox fired him over reported clashes with Rami Malek and others involved in the movie, as well as sudden press attention to some problematic legal issues with Singer in the US. Dexter Fletcher finished the biopic, though Singer received sole director credit.
Even if the critics were less than initially kind, the movie has done quite well at the box office & with some critics
Time Magazine critic Stephanie Zacharek is one of the first major critics to name her favorite films of 2018, and Bohemian Rhapsody is on the list. “It may be a bit of a mess,” Zacharek writes of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “but it’s a glorious one, a polychrome anthem about what it means to live for love and sex, rock ’n’ roll and beauty—the very opposite of sticking to an agenda.”
The immense popularity of this film has begun to carry over to awards season glory. It’s scored two Golden Globe nominations, one for best motion picture drama, and another for best performance by an actor in a motion picture drama. Malek has said he was aware in the beginning that playing an idol of so many could be a make or break proposition, and now he’s ready to celebrate. “It’s great to be recognized in this way. It’s been so many years in the process and to have it culminate in not only myself but the film being recognized is such a tremendous honor and speaks to the level of work that everyone who was a part of this film brought to it. It was a troop of people who were dedicated and committed on such a high level. I’m so proud of all of them.