In Celebration of the Legends: Bohemian Rhapsody Facts

Queen is undoubtedly among the best music bands out there. They are the legends who gave the world phenomenal songs like We Will Rock You, We Are The Champions, and Somebody To Love. And to honor their memory, a Queen movie was made called “Bohemian Rhapsody” got released on November 2, 2018, and it was truly an incredible experience especially for those who are Queen longtime fans. In celebration of Bohemian Rhapsody movie winning 2 major awards at 76th Global Globe Awards, let’s check out some Queen and Bohemian Rhapsody facts!

1. Why the name “Bohemian Rhapsody”?

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Let’s start with a simple fact: many people would immediately notice that they used the name of Queen’s famous hit – Bohemian Rhapsody – for the name of this movie. Of course, it is only natural for this film to borrow the name from one of Queen’s songs. But why did they choose “Bohemian Rhapsody” in particular?

Honestly speaking, there could be plenty reasons of why this name was chosen. It could be possible that Bohemian Rhapsody has an incredible influence in music industry as a whole since it is so… innovative and captivate during its time. It is also Queen’s top 10 greatest hits according to many, many lists put up by fans. And perhaps it is because of the name itself “Bohemian Rhapsody” has a deep meaning. According to a Quora user named Somyak Dhar, the word “Bohemian” originally means “artist” while “Rhapsody” means “fantasy. The whole song Bohemian Rhapsody possibly means to tell a story of an artist, in this case, Freddy Mercury himself. This explanation sounds really convincing if it’s true; this song’s name is indeed fitting for a movie which tells the story of Freddie Mercury and the Queen.

2. Rami Malek was not initially chosen for the role of Freddie Mercury

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At this point we can agree that Rami Malek did a phenomenal job in reliving the image of Freddie Mercury. Furthermore, even Brian May and Roger Taylor – two legendary members from Queen themselves – acknowledge that it was so lucky when they found Malek. But before Malek, there was another candidate who also got casted for the role: Sacha Baron Cohen.

Based on Cohen’s appearance alone, he does look like Freddie Mercury and not only that, he does have good knowledge about the man. However, things went rather “disastrous” due to the direction conflict between Cohen and Queen members Brian May and Roger Taylor. During an interview in The Howard Stern Show in 2016, Cohen shared his experience and explained the creative differences during the film-making, including an idea of making Freddie died at mid-film. Not long after, May backfired Cohen, calling him an “ass” and thus, implying that Cohen seemed to lie about certain things.   

And as we already know, Malek eventually was chosen for the role despite the disagreement from certain people. Fortunately, Malek has proven himself to be a perfect candidate.

3. The main cast has to learn to master the band’s instruments  

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For quick recap, the four actors who play as the Queen are: Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury, Gwilym Lee as Brian May, Joseph Mazzello as John Deacon, and Ben Hardy as Roger Taylor. Since this is a movie about a music band, clearly the cast had to learn using music instruments while at the same time, learning how to become like the Queen themselves.

Think about it, playing as the Queen is definitely challenging, given their legendary status. We can imagine the pressure put upon the actors, yet nonetheless, they totally nailed their roles. Throughout the film-making progress, these actors got to learn from the masters. For example, Gwilym Lee got to learn from guitarist Brian May and according to his interview, he said that he used to learn how to play a guitar. But learning to become a lead guitarist was the first time for him and not to mention, his learning experience with May was indeed incredible.

Their efforts truly paid off and as Taylor expressed: “After a couple of viewings, I mean you just start to completely believe, ‘Oh that was us’.” Needless to say, the cast had indeed done a spectacular job.

4. The Recreation of Live Aid was actually shot first before the rest of the film

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Fans of the Queen definitely cannot forget the phenomenal Live Aid concert in 1985, especially for those who anticipated at the concert themselves. It is the last performance of the Queen before Freddie Mercury passed way and also, it is arguably the Queen’s most memorable concert. For this reason, many people would think that Live Aid was the final shot when they made Bohemian Rhapsody. Yet interesting enough, it was actually the very first shot they made before any other scenes in the movie.

 “It’s kind of a crazy thing to start the shoot with one of the hardest and most pivotal moments,” cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel shared with IndieWire. “But it allowed the cast to come together early and create their chemistry. I remember watching them rehearse three days before the shoot. They didn’t know each other and those four guys really jelled, just like a rock’n’roll band would.”

Well we have to agree, starting the shoot with such an important moment was an extremely daring idea. But alas, it was now proved to be a fine decision.

5. There was a mixing in Malek’s singing

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This is an interesting bit about Freddie Mercury depiction in the movie. So in the film, we see Malek did both the singing and the body performance himself. But what people did not notice is that there was a mix between Malek and Marc Martel’s voice. And for those who don’t know, Marc Martel is an incredible singer whose voice is really like Freddie Mercury (we recommend checking his channel). During Malek’s interview in TheEllenShow, he also shared that: “I’m always giving it my all, but it’s mixed in there with a whole lot of Freddie Mercury.”

6. Many clothes and costumes used in movies are real deal

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In his interview with Fashionista, costume designer Julian Day shared that he and his team spent lots of time and effort to recreate each of the member’s costume. They also added certain modern tweaks for different purpose, for example: Malek’s 20-plus white tank tops got added with lycra so that he could move easier. However, lots of clothes and costumes in the movie were also the real deal used by the Queen. In case of Gwilym Lee, when Day introduced him with the costumes he would wear, May had a different idea. He invited Lee to his house and let Lee try out his own clothes. Now that’s cool!

7. Some differences between the film and what happened in real-life

Despite being a movie telling a story of real-life band the Queen, there are actually several differences between the movie version and real-life version. Of course these differences did not ruin the whole story or any character, yet in any case, it would be interesting to see these differences in details.

The Formation of the Queen

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In the movie, Mercury checked out May and Taylor’s former band Smile at their show in 1970. Then, he looked for their backstage and found out that the band’s singer and bassist Tim Staffell would quit. The movie also showed May and Taylor’s hesitation when seeing Mercury’s shy personality, but they decided to go along with each other nonetheless.

But in reality, according to the two biography books called Queen As It Began and 40 Years of Queen, Mercury was a good friend of May, Taylor, and Staffell long before his joining and they even lived at the same apartment. In terms of Mercury’s shy personality, May has a different idea saying that Mercury was extremely confident; he always believed he was a rock star.

Also, the movie showed John Deacon playing bass at the Queen’s first concert in 1970. However, he was actually the 4th bassist the band tried and he only came along since 1971.

Mercury’s relationship with Mary Austin

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Mary Austin (played by Lucy Boynton) was Mercury’s first love and in the film, they met each other for the first time when Mercury was looking for members of Smile.

In real life, Mercury actually met Austin in 1970 when she was working as a clothing store’s receptionist. During this time, it seemed that Austin hanged out with May for a short while until one day Mercury asked May: “Are you serious with Mary? Can I ask her out?’ And he did, and they were lovers for a long time.” Thus their relationship began, and it is important to note that Mary always had a special role in Mercury’s heart even after their break-up. Not only that, after his death in 1991, he intentionally left a huge proportion of his property to Austin. His mother also approved this decision, saying that Austin was already a part of the family.

By the way, the two stars Rami Malek and Lucy Boynton are also dating in real life. Fascinating isn’t it?

Mercury’s relationship with Jim Hutton

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In Bohemian Rhapsody, Mercury met Jim Hutton (played by Aaron McCusker) after a wild party at his own home. At that time, Mercury got drunk and hit on Hutton who worked as a server. On the next day, Mercury apologized for his behavior and they both had a conversation before gradually developing a romantic relationship.

But in Queen As It Began and Is This the Real Life?, Hutton was in fact an Irish hairdresser and they met each other at a London club called Heaven during the early 80s. It also said that Hutton moved to Mercury’s home and he still kept his relationship with Mercury even after knowing Mercury’s HIV condition. For Hutton, it was a great time and he helped taking care of Mercury in his final days.

Is the EMI Records Exec – Ray Foster – real?

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In real life, Mercury and the Queen did face a trouble when they composed the famous song Bohemian Rhapsody. At first, the band’s EMI chief Roy Featherstone was afraid that a 6-minute-long song might not work well as a single. Yet in the end, the song was a massive hit.

To this point some people may guess: “Where’s Ray Foster? Isn’t he the EMI Records executive in the film?” Well thing is: there was no man named Ray Foster in reality. It seems that the character “Ray Foster” is only fictional, or to be more specific, he seems to represent the skepticism from real EMI chief Roy Featherstone and other EMI executives. That said, the drama happened in the film is possibly something they made up for the sake of tension element.  

Paul Prenter in movie and in real-life

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Paul Prenter (played by Allen Leech) is depicted as the main antagonist in the film. At first, he appeared as the assistant to the band’s manager John Reid, then later on he became Mercury’s personal assistant. Throughout the film, Prenter always intended to spark conflicts between Mercury and his fellow members of the Queen. Ultimately, Mercury fired him after knowing that Prenter did not inform him of the upcoming Live Aid event. And in return, Prenter snitched some unsavory information about Mercury to the media.

In reality, it seemed that Paul Prenter was not that much difference from his movie version. According to May and Taylor, Prenter did have negative influence on Mercury and possibly he was partly reason why Mercury parted on terms with the Queen. Honestly we did not know what Prenter actually did in reality and what his intention was. Nevertheless, Prenter’s influence was definitely not good for Mercury and later on for the band

Did Mercury really break up the Queen?

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One misconception many people might have if they only watched Bohemian Rhapsody is that Mercury alone broke up the Queen. However, their records throughout the history seem to imply otherwise.

In fact, after their album Hot Space in 1982, all four members of the band actually agreed unanimously with each other that they needed to take a break. This could explain why later on, each of the Queen members had his own project. For example: Mercury recorded his very first solo album called “Mr. Bad Guy” in 1982; May released his “Star Fleet Project” in 1983; and Taylor prepared for his future album called “Strange Frontier” in 1984. Eventually, the band got back together with their new record “The Works” in 1983.

Mercury’s AIDs diagnosis actually came before Live Aid, not after it

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In Bohemian Rhapsody, they intentionally changed Live Aid a little bit. In the movie, Mercury learned that he’s HIV positive before Live Aid. And just one day before the event, he told the band about his health condition.

In reality however, Mercury’s HIV diagnosis happened after Life Aid and other members of the Queen did not know about this until 1987-1988. During that time, it is said all three members tried to do their best to hide Mercury’s real condition from everyone else, including their own families. This was partly because of Mercury’s want of refusing to see people buying their songs just because of sympathy. In the end, Mercury only revealed his true condition only one day before his death on November 23, 1991.

And that’s it folks! Those are some of the Queen and Bohemian Rhapsody facts! For now, thank you and stay tune for more news in the future!

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