When Bohemian Rhapsody first hit cinemas in 2018, the Freddie Mercury biopic was met with lukewarm reviews. However, as time went by, the Queen movie took over $900 million at the box office and won more Oscars than any other film the following year. It may surprise fans but for a long time, Brian May and Roger Taylor weren’t exactly in a hurry to get the blockbuster made.
Speaking in this week’s episode of Queen the Greatest, Brian said: “We were a little reluctant in the beginning because it’s difficult to make a film that would do Freddie justice. And what happened over the years, because it was suggested to us a lot, what happened was that we realised if we didn’t get involved, then somebody else would do it and then you wouldn’t be able to protect Freddie’s kind of legacy.”
Roger added: “I think a lot of people, they think about Freddie, and the media tend to think, ‘Oh, flamboyant’, whatever, you know? And they remember him for other things, and they tend to forget that he was a brilliant musician. I think the film does pay good attention to the fact that Freddie was a real, real great musician.”
Brian May continued: “We all felt we wanted to portray Freddie’s humanity, to portray him as a human being, like Roger says, as a musician. And it had to be truthful, and it had to be not too indulgent, and it had to be watchable, and, I think Freddie would say, number one, it had to be entertaining. And I think you have to laugh, you have to cry, and I believe people will do in this movie. Casting Rami [Malek] in the role of Freddie absolutely blew us away, the first time we met him. We kind of saw Freddie in him and we could sense his passion, and everything was put together around that, I guess.”
When promoting Bohemian Rhapsody for which he won the Best Actor Oscar, Rami said: “At first I thought it would be so daunting to be that extremely liberated, audacious performer that he was on stage, who transcended everything about music. And so I thought, ‘OK, there’s a human being there that I could connect with’. Now, I just wanted to discover how that human being with all those eccentricities and confusing thoughts could be so daring and bold on stage.”
When Brian and Roger first saw the Freddie actor and his co-stars recreating Live Aid, they were very impressed by how uncanny the four were as Queen.
Brian remembered: “We didn’t get to see him in full ‘shtick’ until that first moment when the cameras rolled on Live Aid. We both went down to see it, and it was, I don’t know what the word is, it just sent shivers up your spine because the recreation was so perfect of the venue and everything about it, including the backstage. And then these guys come on and they are us. And they plunged in the deep end. That was like the pinnacle performance they had to pull off right at the beginning of the shooting, which is tough, but they had it down.”
Roger added: “They got very close to us, I mean, visually and as actors, and so which made it particularly uncanny to watch for us. After a couple of viewings you just start to completely believe ‘Ah, that was us…oh no, it’s not. It’s other people.’ But, phenomenal.”
Aside from making nearly $1 billion at the box office, Bohemian Rhapsody helped find Queen new fans among a younger generation.
The film’s soundtrack hit the Top 10 in 25 countries, becoming one of Queen’s top-selling albums in 40 years.
Rami said: “I want everybody, to be exposed to Queen. The music is so powerful. The lyrics are so powerful. They’re universal. And I think, you know, I don’t know if Queen ever wanted to be socially or politically conscious in their music, but, can’t help it. I mean, this is a band that was revolutionary and continues to be. It’s about being your most authentic self, and Queen is the epitome of inclusivity, and I think that’s what the world really needs right now.”