Bohemian Rhapsody is a 2018 biographical film about Freddie Mercury, lead singer of the British rock band Queen. It follows the singer's life from when he joins the band in 1970 to their 1985 Live Aid performance at the original Wembley Stadium in London.
The film was directed by Bryan Singer from a screenplay by Anthony McCarten, and produced by Graham King and Queen manager Jim Beach. It stars Rami Malek as Mercury, with Lucy Boynton, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, Joe Mazzello, Aidan Gillen, Tom Hollander, Allen Leech, and Mike Myers in supporting roles. Queen members Brian May and Roger Taylor served as consultants.
A British-American venture, the film was produced by 20th Century Fox, New Regency, GK Films, and Queen Films, with Fox serving as distributor.
Bohemian Rhapsody received numerous accolades, including a leading four awards at the 91st Academy Awards for Best Actor (Malek), Best Film Editing, Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing; it was also nominated for Best Picture. The film won Best Motion Picture – Drama at the 76th Golden Globe Awards, and was nominated for the Producers Guild of America Award for Best Theatrical Motion Picture and BAFTA Award for Best British Film, while Malek won the Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild and BAFTA for Best Actor.
Plans for a film about Queen were revealed in September 2010 by the band's guitarist Brian May. Covering the period up to Live Aid in 1985, the film was to feature Sacha Baron Cohen as Freddie Mercury, with Graham King to co-produce, and Peter Morgan to write the screenplay. May confirmed in April 2011 that the production was moving forward. He approved of Baron Cohen as Mercury, but had reservations about the project's possible direction. The band's concerns focused on avoiding any harm to Mercury's legacy.
In July 2013, Baron Cohen left the project due to creative differences. Allegedly, he had wanted a "gritty R-rated tell-all" focused on Mercury, while the band hoped for a PG-rated film about Queen. May said later in 2013 that Baron Cohen had left the project on good terms. Comments by May and Roger Taylor suggested that Baron Cohen was too well known as a comedian and prankster (due largely to his fictional personae Ali G and Borat), and that his presence in the film would be distracting. In March 2016, Baron Cohen spoke about misunderstandings with Queen about the subject and events of the film, in particular whether the story ought to continue past Mercury's 1991 death. He also mentioned artistic disagreements with the band over the composition of the production team, referring specifically to the involvement of Morgan, David Fincher, and Tom Hooper.
Following Baron Cohen's departure, in December 2013, Ben Whishaw was mentioned as a possible replacement to play Mercury. Also at this time, Dexter Fletcher was selected as the film's director. Fletcher removed himself from the project early the following year, amid reports of creative disagreements with King. In August 2014, Whishaw suggested that the film was not progressing well and that there had been scripting problems. Whishaw left the project seven months later.
In November 2015, screenwriter Anthony McCarten became attached to the project, which now had the working title of Bohemian Rhapsody after Queen's song of the same name. Developing a fresh take on the story from his interviews with May and Taylor, he delivered his first draft in February 2016. A year later, Bryan Singer was in talks to take over as director, Rami Malek was cast as Mercury, and the film was fast-tracked by 20th Century Fox and New Regency. It was reported in 2015 that Johnny Flynn was due to play Roger Taylor, and that Gemma Arterton would play Mercury's partner Mary Austin.
In May 2017, Malek confirmed that he had conducted recordings at Abbey Road Studios and had consulted Taylor and May. The same month, Entertainment Weekly reported that Taylor and May were serving as music producers. In August 2017, Justin Haythe was revealed to have penned another draft of the script.
On 4 November 2016, it was announced that Rami Malek would star as Freddie Mercury. The producers saw his work on Mr. Robot. He had to make a pre-recording at Abbey Road Studios, which was sent to Queen members for approval. On 21 August 2017, additional cast members were announced: Ben Hardy as drummer Roger Taylor, Gwilym Lee as lead guitarist Brian May, and Joseph Mazzello as bass guitarist John Deacon. On 30 August 2017, it was reported that Allen Leech had been cast in the film to play Mercury's personal manager, Paul Prenter, who worked for him from 1977 to 1987, when he was fired for betraying Mercury by selling his personal information to UK newspapers.
On 6 September 2017, Lucy Boynton was cast to play Mercury's long-term girlfriend, Mary Austin. Lindsey Stirling, Bryce Dallas Howard, Maria Bello and Ashley Johnson were also considered. On 11 September 2017, Mike Myers joined the cast to play EMI executive Ray Foster, and on 22 September 2017, Aaron McCusker was added to play Mercury's long-term boyfriend Jim Hutton. On 26 September 2017, it was announced that Aidan Gillen had been cast as John Reid, Queen's second manager, from 1975 to 1978, who took over from Norman Sheffield of Trident Studios. Tom Hollander was set to play Jim Beach, Queen's third manager, who took over from John Reid in 1978. The film includes cameos by current Queen vocalist Adam Lambert as a truck driver and the film's editor John Ottman as a live TV director.
Pre-production began in July 2017 in the UK, with principal photography commencing in London in September 2017. Queen archivist Greg Brooks was instrumental in helping recreate each scene to make it as true to life as possible. He worked daily with Fox for months from the beginning, providing answers to questions. There were about a hundred extras, who were all individually scanned 360° and digitally replicated to imitate a larger crowd. The entire Live Aid performance was filmed, but in the final cut "We Will Rock You" and "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" were cut out.
When Malek was contacted about playing Mercury, he had only a casual knowledge of Queen. To embody Mercury, Malek had to work many intense sessions with a movement coach, as well as learn to talk with prosthetic teeth. Besides examining Mercury's movements, they also watched footage of Liza Minnelli, who was an inspiration to Mercury's stage moves. Malek took singing and piano lessons, and had an accent coach, as well. He said, "I had to re-create things he did on the fly, onstage. There were many days I said to myself, 'This is a lost cause.'" After finishing the film, Malek said that he became a "Queen super-fan", specifying, "I see Freddie as the best performer of all time... I never ceased to be astonished by this man." While Malek sang some parts in the film, producers inserted vocal stems from Queen songs as well as filling in parts with Canadian vocalist Marc Martel, a winner of the Queen Extravaganza Live Tour auditions.
On 1 December 2017, The Hollywood Reporter reported that 20th Century Fox had temporarily halted production due to the "unexpected unavailability" of director Bryan Singer. Sources said that Singer had not returned to the set after the Thanksgiving week. Discussions began about replacing him. Cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel stepped in to direct during Singer's non-showings. Singer's absence was reportedly due to "a personal health matter concerning Bryan and his family". With under three weeks left on the shoot, Singer requested a filming hiatus as his mother was extremely ill. Other sources, however, claimed that Malek and the crew had grown tired of Singer's behaviour, who was reportedly arriving late to set and clashing with Malek. On 4 December 2017, Singer was fired as director, with about two weeks of scheduled principal photography remaining.
On 6 December 2017, Dexter Fletcher was announced as Singer's replacement, and, on 15 December, filming resumed with Fletcher directing. Fletcher later estimated that two-thirds of the principal photography had been completed when he joined the production, saying, "I came into the last few weeks of principal photography and editing and the bits and pieces like that... I was looking at two complete [acts] in a good film, and [I had to] not let it down."
On 30 January 2018, Gwilym Lee posted to social media that filming had finished. Visual effects were provided by DNEG and supervised by Paul Norris.
The world premiere of Bohemian Rhapsody took place in London at the SSE Arena, Wembley, on 23 October 2018. It was released in the United Kingdom on 24 October 2018 in IMAX, and in the United States on 2 November 2018, by 20th Century Fox. On 1 January 2019, it was announced that there would be special sing-along screenings simultaneously in cinemas across the United Kingdom with the first screening at Leicester Square’s Prince Charles Cinema with others on 11 January 2019. There were also many sing-along screenings in South Korea and Japan.
In China, the film was set to have a limited release on 22 March 2019. Some scenes of the film were censored, including those portraying drugs and homosexuality; part of Rami Malek's Oscar speech, where he referred to Freddie Mercury as 'a gay man, an immigrant', was also censored in China.
Rami Malek's performance as Freddie Mercury earned him the 2019 Academy Award for Best Actor
Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury / Farrokh Bulsara, lead vocalist of the
rock band Queen
Lucy Boynton as Mary Austin, Mercury's girlfriend
Gwilym Lee as Brian May, Queen's lead guitarist
Ben Hardy as Roger Taylor, Queen's drummer
Joe Mazzello as John Deacon, Queen's bass guitarist
Allen Leech as Paul Prenter, Mercury's personal manager and lover
Aidan Gillen as John Reid, Queen's manager
Tom Hollander as Jim "Miami" Beach, Queen's lawyer turned manager
Mike Myers as Ray Foster, an EMI executive
Aaron McCusker as Jim Hutton, Mercury's boyfriend
Meneka Das as Jer Bulsara, Mercury's mother
Ace Bhatti as Bomi Bulsara, Mercury's father
Priya Blackburn as Kashmira Bulsara, Mercury's sister
Tim Plester as Roy Thomas Baker, Queen's sound engineer
Dermot Murphy as Bob Geldof, Live Aid organizer
Dickie Beau as Kenny Everett, radio broadcaster in Capital London
Jack Roth as Tim Staffell, vocalist & bassist of the rock band Smile
Max Bennett as David, Mary's new boyfriend
Neil Fox-Roberts as Mr. Austin, Mary's father
Michelle Duncan as Shelley Stern, a reporter
Adam Lambert as Truck Stop Guy
John Ottman, a frequent collaborator of director Bryan Singer, composed the film's score. The official soundtrack album, containing several Queen hits and 11 previously unreleased recordings, including five tracks from their 21-minute Live Aid performance in July 1985 which have never before been released in audio form, was on CD, cassette, and digital formats on 19 October 2018, and was later released on heavyweight vinyl on 8 February 2019.
Hollywood Records released the album in the United States and Canada, while Virgin EMI Records handled the global release.
The soundtrack became Queen's second Australian number one album after 'A Night at the Opera' in 1976. It debuted at number 22 on the US Billboard 200 with 24,000 album-equivalent units, which included 12,000 pure album sales. It serves as Queen's seventeenth top 40 album in the United States.
In its second week, the soundtrack rose to number three on both the official UK Album Chart and Billboard 200, while Queen's' The Platinum Collection' entered the top 10 in the same week, making it the first time Queen have had two albums in the US top 10 at the same time. It reached number two on the Billboard 200 in its 18th week, becoming Queen's second-highest charting album in the country.
The soundtrack has also reached number one in other album charts around the world, including the Japanese, Czech and Greek album charts, and has been certified Platinum in the UK, Australia, and Japan.