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We nearly had to Rhap up biopic

Casting and director problems almost torpedoed Queen film, says guitarist Brian May

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SHOWMAN: Freddie Mercury at the height of his fame

SHOWMAN: Freddie Mercury at the height of his fame

SHOWMAN: Freddie Mercury at the height of his fame

The Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody almost didn’t get made, Brian May has revealed.

The 2018 film about FREDDIE MERCURY and the rise of band was a box-office smash, grossing over £600m and winning four Oscars.

May told Absolute Radio: “It was very difficult. We had all kinds of problems, as you probably know, including [issues with] a director.

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Brian May

Brian May

Brian May

“It came close to not happening. It was all called off at one point. We managed to put it back on the rails, then everybody who had been effectively laid off came back and said ‘We want to make this film, we love it and we believe in it’.

“Graham King, our producer, was outstandingly brave in steering the whole thing. There was an amazing feeling of teamwork on that film.”

The movie was announced in 2010, with SACHA BARON COHEN to play Freddie. The comedian left over “creative differences” and RAMI MALEK was cast as the frontman.

Director BRYAN SINGER was also fired and replaced by DEXTER FLETCHER.

May said the band wanted to preserve the legacy of Freddie, who died in 1991, aged 45, of complications from Aids. He added: “There’s a lot of truth in the film. We didn’t make it — we were like the uncles of the film, if you like — but we spent years looking at scripts and trying to figure out how we would do Freddie justice without over-blowing him and without sort of fantasising.”

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Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury and Gwilym Lee as Brian May in Bohemian Rhapsody

Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury and Gwilym Lee as Brian May in Bohemian Rhapsody

Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury and Gwilym Lee as Brian May in Bohemian Rhapsody

However, the film caused controversy in Northern Ireland, with the family and friends of the Belfast man depicted as a villain in the tale slamming his portrayal.

Former Downtown Radio DJ Paul Prenter, who was Freddie’s personal assistant, is shown as a bad influence who led the frontman astray before his death.

Queen, who are celebrating their 50th anniversary, are set to open their twice rescheduled Rhapsody UK and European tour in Belfast next year.

Frontman ADAM LAMBERT and the band will perform at the SSE Arena on May 27 and 28.

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Adam Lambert performing with Queen

Adam Lambert performing with Queen

Adam Lambert performing with Queen

Reflecting on Freddie’s huge cultural impact, May said: “He was always a rockstar. He behaved as if he was [Led Zeppelin frontman] Robert Plant at the time and nobody minded because he just had that kind of aura about him.

“Underneath it, [he had] massive insecurities, massive shyness. It was always with him, right until the end.

“He had a very private side to him and he faced up to his insecurities by building himself in the way he wanted to be.

“He was a very self-made creature. If you peeled off all the layers of the onion, you’d find a lot of complexity, a lot of which he denied, which is smart, I think.

“People would [ask if he thought the music was] important and he would say ‘No, it’s just tomorrow’s fish and chips paper. I don’t think my songs are worth anything’. Underneath that, he had stuff to say.

“Freddie was always expressing himself in rather daring ways. Inside was this rather insecure person. On the outside was a warrior he was building himself into.”

All the band’s worries about the film were worth it, however, with the end product winning multiple awards and widespread praise.

May said: “The boys who played us were incredible, Rum [Rami Malek] was outstanding. Gwilym Lee, who played me, even fooled my kids when they saw it. They said ‘You must have done the voice’. I went ‘No, no, he did that’.”

÷ You can listen to Absolute Radio at absoluteradio.co.uk, through your smart speaker or through the Absolute Radio app


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