Queen vocalist Freddie Mercury, one of the most iconic musicians of the modern era, will be the focal point of the upcoming band biopic Bohemian Rhapsody. Mr. Robot star Rami Malek will portray the man regarded by many as the greatest multifaceted singer, songwriter, and producer of all time, with director Dexter Fletcher replacing original director Bryan Singer behind the camera.
Penned by Academy Award nominee Anthony McCarten (The Theory of Everything), Bohemian Rhapsody will chronicle the period between the band’s formation in the 1970s and Mercury’s death in 1991, with Queen band members Brian May and Roger Taylor serving as producers on the film. Bohemian Rhapsody is currently scheduled to hit theaters December 25, 2018.
The show must go on
After Singer was dropped from the film in early December due to a variety of alleged on-set issues and a mysterious absence, Eddie the Eagle director Fletcher took over the film less than a week later. Deadline reports that Fletcher will manage the final two weeks of filming, as well as any reshoots and post-production required to keep the movie on schedule for its December 2018 premiere.
Best known for directing the 2016 biopic of ski jumper Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards, Fletcher previously directed 2013’s Sunshine on Leith and 2011’s Wild Bill.
Has anyone seen the director?
Production on Bohemian Rhapsody hit a snag in early December when Singer reportedly failed to return to the set after the Thanksgiving holiday. The director’s absence was attributed to “a personal health matter concerning Bryan and his family,” according to a representative for Singer.
“Twentieth Century Fox Film has temporarily halted production on Bohemian Rhapsody due to the unexpected unavailability of Bryan Singer,” read the statement from the studio (via BBC News).
According to The Hollywood Reporter, this wasn’t the first unexplained absence for Singer. The outlet reports Bohemian Rhapsody producers and star Malek “had grown tired of Singer’s behavior, which saw him routinely show up late to set.”
Rami as Freddie
Claiming that he simply couldn’t help himself, Singer posted a photo on Instagram of Malek as Freddie Mercury, bare-chested and in full epic ballad pose, during the filming of Bohemian Rhapsody in November.
The first photo of Malek as Mercury was released in September 2017, on what would have been the singer’s 71st birthday.
The photo was posted by Entertainment Weekly, and Malek indicated that achieving a visual similarity to the famously recognizable singer went a long way toward giving him the confidence to portray Mercury on the screen.
“When you’re able to open your eyes and see a different person staring back at you in the mirror, it’s a very affirming moment,” said the actor.
Image isn’t everything
Although the first photo of Malek as Mercury suggests that Bohemian Rhapsody will feature a satisfying visual representation of the Queen frontman, replicating Mercury’s famous, four-octave vocal range presents a more difficult challenge for both the actor and the film’s creative team.
The film will reportedly blend elements of the actor’s voice, recordings of Mercury, and a sound-alike performer in order to re-create one of the most memorable voices in music history.
“We’re going to use Freddie as much as possible and use myself as much as possible,” Malek told Entertainment Weekly. “I’m in Abbey Road [Studios] right now, if that should say anything to you. I’m not working on my acting.”
Getting the band together
Malek was first confirmed to play Mercury in November 2016, replacing several previous stars cast in the role during the film’s development cycle.
While the casting of the acclaimed TV actor as Mercury was one of the key elements in getting Bohemian Rhapsody rolling, the rest of the cast is filled out by a group of talented actors as well, who will portray Mercury’s bandmates and various other personalities from Queen’s rise to fame.
EastEnders and X-Men: Apocalypse actor Ben Hardy will portray Taylor, the band’s drummer, along with Gwilym Lee (Midsomer Murders) as lead guitarist May, and Joseph Mazzello (Jurassic Park, The Social Network) as bass guitarist John Deacon. Joining them will be Allen Leech (Downton Abbey) as Paul Prenter, Mercury’s personal manager, and Lucy Boynton (Miss Potter, Sense and Sensibility) as Mary Austin, Mercury’s lifelong friend and companion.
Bucking tradition, honoring a legacy
Although Freddie Mercury is the band’s most famous member, audiences shouldn’t expect Bohemian Rhapsody to focus entirely on Queen’s acclaimed lead singer.
The film will reportedly draw inspiration from the band’s music as it chronicles the time between the band forming in London during the 1970s and Queen’s 1985 performance at Live Aid, six years before Mercury’s death. It will also address Mercury’s death in 1991 due to complications from AIDS, but the film’s now-fired director insisted that the singer’s life won’t be the primary focal point for the film and it won’t be “a traditional biopic.”
“It won’t just be the dark Freddie story, but that being said, that also will be honored,” said Singer when asked about tone and focus of the film. “It’s about collaboration. It’s a celebration.”
Making the band a central theme of the movie instead of Mercury alone also falls in line with some of the issues raised early in the film’s development stage. Back in 2011, prior to Malek or Singer joining the project, May told The Daily Record that preserving Mercury’s legacy was the most important thing any film about Queen must do.
“Obviously, we go into it with a great amount of enthusiasm but also a certain amount of caution because Freddie’s legacy is very precious and we have a great responsibility not to mess it up,” he said.
Easy come, easy go
Malek and and the now-fired Singer were finally confirmed as the respective star and director on Bohemian Rhapsody after almost a decade of starts and stops for the Queen biopic.
Early versions of the project had The Dictator and Borat actor Sacha Baron Cohen (pictured above) attached to portray Mercury, only to have the comedic actor exit the project in July 2013. Cohen’s departure was credited to “creative differences” with the studio and producers May and Taylor, with some reports suggesting that Cohen envisioned the film as a gritty, R-rated biopic of Mercury, while the singer’s bandmates (and producers) wanted a more mainstream, PG-rated biography of Mercury and the band.
After Cohen’s exit from the film, Skyfall actor Ben Whishaw was brought on to play Mercury, only to have that vision of the film fall apart, too.
The director’s chair had a similarly quick-changing list of occupants, with David Fincher (The Social Network), Dexter Fletcher (Eddie the Eagle), and Stephen Frears (High Fidelity) all attached to direct the film at various points. Singer was confirmed as the film’s director in November 2016.
Update: We added news of Dexter Fletcher replacing Bryan Singer on the film.