(Release Info London schedule; October 24th, 2018, ODEON Luxe Haymarket, 11:30)
The iconic intro of “'We Will Rock You', the soaring chorus of 'We Are The Champions', the mesmerizing operatics of "Bohemian Rhapsody". Who isn’t moved to sing along when they hear these anthems? Who can’t fail to stamp their feet at such heart-stirring beats? Who can forget that moment 'The Live Aid Concert' of 1985 suddenly moved into fifth gear when Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek) strutted onto the stage and sent the crowd into frenzies of communal singing? It’s been over 25 years since the death of lead singer and flamboyant front Freddie Mercury, yet the music lives on. Freddie redefined and transcended stereotypes, just as 'Queen’s' music refuses to be slotted into any traditional genre. Perhaps that’s why the band is such a cross generational, multicultural and global phenomenon. "Bohemian Rhapsody" is a foot-stomping celebration of 'Queen’s' music and lead singer Freddie Mercury’s extraordinary life.
The film opens in 1970 in the London suburb of Ealing where Freddie Mercury grows up and ends in 1985, traversing several continents along the way. The first scene is shot in a single take, with the camera winding it's way from the front driveway, through the front door and into a throng of fire eaters, giants, magicians, caged dancers and a gaggle of fabulously-attired party people until we join Freddie and follow him through the house and it's decadent interiors. Freddie is a guy who didn't stand for anything. When we first meet him, he's a fighter. It isn't easy being an immigrant in 'The UK' in these days. He didn’t become a star immediately, it isn't an overnight success. He becomes one by fighting, by not accepting ‘no', by not being negative and by always fighting back from the knocks with something bigger and better. That’s what 'Queen' managed to do so well in their music. Every time you thought you'd heard the best of 'Queen', a song would come along and blow your mind. Most people identify Freddie as this crop-haired, mustachioed, tank top wearing, muscular man who has a ton of bravado and machismo. It's astonishing to get to know the many versions and the very sweet side of him as well. One thing about Freddie Mercury that's absolutely undeniable is his magnetism. When he's on stage, holding that half mic, or sitting at the piano, he feels capable of anything.
Brian May (Gwilym Lee) has some difficulties with his father. He's a really high-achieving academic who's doing a PhD in astrophysics and called it off to be in a band, and his dad really didn't approve. Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy) has a few tricks that give his drumming a real showmanship. He likes to spin his stick; he just does one turn. And he always does a rim shot on the snare which is when you connect the rim of the snare and the skin to create a really big sound. He's very theatrical with his playing, even the rim shot has a whipping motion. And he also accents the back beat by splashing the high hat. He also pours beer on his floor tom so when he hits it, the beer shoots up really high. The fourth member of the band is bass guitarist John Deacon (Joe Mazzello). He's an accidental rock star. This just happened to him, whereas the other guys grew up wanting to be famous musicians. John is perfectly content just working in electronics and fixing televisions. He loves playing music and has a knack for it, but he did it for fun. He also has a knack for songwriting, but he never believed that it could be something that he could do for the rest of his life. But it just snowballed, and before he knows it they're touring America and Japan. He's also the youngest and the last to join the band, so it takes him a little while to find himself. He's more introverted, but he's also a little bit of a goofball. But ultimately as the band got more success, and he started writing many of their big hits, he becomes a pretty integral part of the band.
Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton) immediately sees something in Freddie that's slightly different from all the other guys she knows. She's the person closest to him. There’s a light that emanates from him, and there's a moment where she catches him looking at himself in the mirror. It’s a really beautiful moment, as we see a person trying to assess themselves, trying on all different selves. That’s what draws Mary in, and when they play with the makeup and the scarves, she recognizes what a chameleon he's. He referred to her as his common law wife. Mary allows him the confidence and the courage to be exactly who he knew he could be. And that's what true friends do. They allow you to feel confident in your own skin, to find that confidence and to share it with others. Mary is the person Freddie could trust wholeheartedly, the person who reassured him and gave him the advice and confidence he needed and allows him to discover his sense of self. And she said what she needed to say in the moment it's needed. She really is the heart of this movie, and she's what keeps everything together. There's a dynamic throughout their entire lives. Although it starts as a romantic relationship, it's something so much deeper and so important to both of them. She's his closest ally and he hers until the very end of his life.
When Paul Prenter (Allen Leech), is hired as an assistant to the band‘s manager John Reid (Aidan Gillen) the band, Mercury’s de facto family, is torn apart. Prenter inveigles himself into Mercury’s confidence and encourages him to indulge his hedonism. Paul is quite a malevolent force in Freddie's life. Paul gives him an ability to see what the world is like, what the gay scene is like. He's a confidante and then he moves from being the band’s assistant to Freddie’s personal manager. Their relationship become toxic when Paul convinces Mercury to leave the band and strike out on his own in Germany. The band sees Paul as being cunning and connivin. He leads Freddie down a path that became very dark; the parties, the clubs, the drugs, the alcohol. Two scenes are pivotal to Freddie and Paul's relationship. The first at 'Rockfield Farm Studios' when the band is recording 'Fhe Bohemian Rhapsody' album and Paul kisses Freddie, and they realize there's an understanding between them. The second is in Munich, when Freddie sees the truth and, in the driving rain, banishes Paul from his life. It’s his realization that he’s lost a part of himself and that he’s lost the band that's ultimately his moment of reckoning. He realizes how much he depends on Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon; these other guys in this band and on Mary. Movement isn't just the performance. It's everything the character is and has ever been.
'Live Aid' is one of the most important cultural events of the 1980s, bringing together the world’s biggest superstars in a benefit concert on two stages, 'Wembley Stadium' in London and 'The John F Kennedy Stadium' in Philadelphia, on July 13th, 1985. Organized by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure to raise funds for those affected by the famine in Ethiopia, the concert is one of the largest satellite link-ups and TV broadcasts of all time, watched by an audience totaling 1.9 billion in 150 countries around the world. The concert comes at a pivotal moment as it brings the band back together after Mercury’s move to Germany, where he recorded two solo albums. It also comes at a time when Mercury is at his lowest ebb, surrounded by hangers-on who are exploiting Mercury’s generosity, and falling dangerously into a spiral of drug and alcohol abuse. 'Queen‘s' performance is a shot in the arm for the 'Live Aid' organizers. People are watching in 'The UK', but they weren't calling in to pledge money, which is what the whole concert is about. The film traces all the events that happened to him from the 1950s to 1985 when the film ends to see how they would impact on his physically. Freddie‘s being a boxer, golfer and long-distance runner during his childhood as affecting his movement later in life. You can see the punches in his performances, you can see how he lifts up his knees when he runs and how he sometimes uses the microphone as a golf club. These are all evidence of his physical muscle memory. In addition, he was brought up in Zanzibar with it's specific culture, and this shows in his use of embellishment and colors in his clothes. We notice the little tricks he did to cover his teeth, especially in the early years, and how he loses that as he gets older and more confident, singing with a much wider mouth and smiling on stage. Freddie is very flamboyant there. It’s fur coats, nail varnish, rings, adornments and long hair. He's quite thin and wily and has an elegance of poise and posing.
The film is a celebration of the music as well as carrying on the legacy of 'Queen' and Freddie and showing a whole new generation who Freddie was, his background in Zanzibar, his coming to London as an immigrant, the prejudice he dealt with growing up, his shyness and insecurities about his looks, how he battled on so many different fronts, his brilliance as a songwriter and musician, how he found another family in the band, his reinvention as a larger-than-life performer, while always remaining someone everyone loved who could get away with some very outrageous behavior, all framed by the creation of a sound that was innovative and groundbreaking for the time. The period from 1970 to1985 feels like the most important part of Freddie's and the band’s life story, and it ends with the triumph of 'Live Aid'. Freddie Mercury didn't have a bad bone in his body. He did have quite a quick temper, though, and he would react, but underneath that he was very shy, and if there was a confrontation, he would deal with it, and then he didn't want to. He was always focused, he always knew what he wanted to get out of a situation. And that's a good lesson to learn rather than trying to please everybody else in a particular situation.
How does a band create their music? That’s a really difficult thing to show on screen. The audience is going to really enjoy seeing that. It's not just Freddie's story, it’s also the story of how they created the sound. How did they invent ‘Bohemian Rhapsody', which was completely panned when it came out. The band‘s first appearance on legendary BBC-TV program 'Top Of The Pops' in 1974 featuring 'Killer Queen', which propelled the band to international stardom, despite or perhaps because of Freddie’s outrageously suggestive performance and even more suggestive skintight out. The track got to number one and stayed there for six weeks, 'Top Of The Pops' played the video for six weeks. That video really turned the band into stars. Mercury’s multi-cultural background went some way to explaining why this happened. Freddie was somebody who brought people together, no matter your race, your sexuality, your nationality; people joined together when Freddie came on stage. It was a moment that gave you the chills.
Feather boas, ermine and velvet capes, marble bathrooms, gold-plated lions; the film has it. As the ‘60s turns into the ‘70s, there's wonderful warm tones that are avocado and orange and brown-warm, earthy colors. From the mid to late ‘70s, it starts to get almost a disco palette-the primary colors start to pop a little bit more until we get to the early ‘80s, and there’s a neon and brighter colored palette. These different eras have really distinct looks. This journey is told through the clothes. For the early scenes, it's more of a ‘60s vibe, quite hippie, a sort of 'Woodstock' feel. The colors are more subdued for Britain at the time. After three gigs in Britain, the film goes to America where they toured as a support group for five concerts there. For those scenes, there’s a real American feel, quite a Western look with suede, fringing, checked shirts and cowboy hats. From there, the film moves to Japan where we've a much more colorful tone with pop art references. As we move forward in time, the costumes become more flamboyant. For the scenes in 1980s New York, the film scourers images from New York’s legendary disco 'Studio 54' and designs an array of outrageous costumes with references to the 1980s nightclub scene, punk, gay culture, drag and the underground fetish scene.
The film wants to continue the legacy of Freddie Mercury and 'Queen', to show a younger generation who Freddie Mercury was, how the band survived through times, how the music business has changed, what it was like to make a record in those days, what it was like for four guys to meet and create that special sound. If there’s anyone in the audience who's confused or being bullied or feeling like an outcast, they would take to heart what Mary says to Freddie in the film: ‘Don’t you see who you can be? Anything you want to be'. That's a very important message in today's world. 'Queen' is so popular, but they're never really fashionable. They're always a little bit out of time and out of fashion, which is why they‘ve remained so popular. That, and because the songs are fantastic and quite cutting-edge, using multiple overdubs on vocals and complex, unexpected chord progressions which were unusual for the time.