Bohemian Rhapsody

Making a biopic is no easy task in the film industry. Finding the right balance of accuracy and entertainment can seem very daunting to even the most seasoned auteur of cinema. While staying true to the individual’s actual story would be the most logical route to take. Unfortunately, the tales usually end up getting embellished quite a bit to fit a more audience-friendly narrative. Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing as these are not documentaries and are the filmmakers’ visual interpretation of the story of the subject’s life. With that being said, it is essential to respectfully point out the inaccuracies of one of these pictures so that people aren’t mistaking fiction for fact.

This was definitely the case in Bohemian Rhapsody, the 2018 Queen Biopic starring Rami Malek. The film has garnered two Golden Globes, both for the film and the leading man’s performance, as well as faring very well at the box office. But not everything in the flick chronicling the wild ride that was Freddie Mercury’s life when he was rocking out with Queen is how it went down, and there are ten things to point out.

1. The Year ‘We Will Rock You’ Was Recorded

we will rock you

Bohemian Rhapsody plays very fast and loose with the bands actual chronology. Some things are moved around for the sake of time, but some of the choices made in this department are very odd. One moment that comes to mind revolves around one the Queen’s signature songs, “We Will Rock You.” In the film, there is a scene where the band is seen developing the famous stomp and clap associated with the infamous track “We Will Rock You” and was one of the big selling points in the movie.

The film indicates that the legendary track was recorded in 1980 when in reality it was written in 1977 by Brian May and put out on the album, News of the World. The track was a huge hit that was played continuously on the radio along with “We are the Champions.” This track was so successful mainly because. As depicted in the film, it is the song that allows the audience to play along. This hit has stood the test of time and is still widely accepted in today’s society. It is no surprise the filmmakers added this part into the film, but it is odd to change up the dates like that.[1]

2. How Freddie Meets Mary Austin

Freddie Mercury Mary Austin

There is no question that everybody loves a good romance in a film. And when it comes to rock music, love is usually a motivation to fill the airwaves with those jammin’ tunes. So it is pretty apparent that a film about Queen would include Mercury’s relationship with Mary Austin. While it became known later that Mercury was a bisexual, he always considered Mary to be the love of his life, and she took care of him until his death in 1991. The movie showcases this love story pretty accurately with a few discrepancies.

The movie does take some liberties with the first lady of Queen. When Freddie joins the band, he meets Austin that very same night, complimenting her jacket before asking her out a few days later at her job. But in reality, it was much more complicated than that. And Mercury wasn’t even the first member of the band to date Mary Austin. Brian May actually was dating Mary first, and then Freddie asked her out. They need up being lovers for the rest of the lead Queen Man’s life.[2]

3. Ray Foster is Not Real

Ray Foster

The Queen biopic, while very well done, does have the nasty habit of exhibiting a lot of music biopic cliches. While the film has several of these moments throughout, some are warranted, and some are just completely fabricated. One of which is the bit where a mean record executive tells the artists their innovation in music won’t sell, and they should make more commercially appealing tracks. This is where Mike Myers comes into play. The Wayne’s World and Shrek actor makes a delightful cameo appearance in the film and his moment is absolutely one of the highlights overall. But, his character Ray foster is not real at all.

He is a combination of several inspirations, but mostly he is a very loose, and I mean very loosely based on EMI’s Roy Featherstone.[3] Featherstone was known to actually be very fond of the band Queen and their music, a polar opposite or Myer’s character Foster seen in the film attempting to bring Queen down. So, in the end, Foster ends up being a comical place holder meant to symbolize the band’s obstacles and nothing more.

4. Freddie Mercury’s HIV Revelation Before Live Aid Concert

Freddie Mercury live aid concert

The Queen biopic showcased the band’s wild ride culminating their rock and roll adventure with their infamous Live Aid performance. While this seems like the dramatic ending right for this biopic, the film makes a bold move with manipulating the timeline as well as the revelation of some life-changing medical news. Freddie Mercury’s diagnosis of HIV is revealed to the band before their Live Aid performance which brings them together for a solid feel-good moment.

In reality, this was not the case. The unveiling of Mercury’s diagnosis did not happen the way Bohemian Rhapsody depicts it. From many people’s accounts, including Freddie’s partner Jim Hutton, Mercury did not know he was HIV positive until sometime in 1987.[4] That was two years after the Live Aid show. And Brian May claims the band new Freddie was ill but had no idea he was HIV positive until a few years before his death.

5. How Freddie Mercury Joined The Band

Probably one of the most mind-boggling spins on the truth is the manner in how the film depicts the iconic singer first joining the band. In the movie, after Mercury has a fight with his parents which has him go to a bar to see his band play a show. At the Smile Concert, lead singer Roger Taylor quits, and the group is in need of a replacement. And low and behold, the legendary Freddie Mercury is there in what seems to be the planets aligning as this plays out as quite possibly the greatest coincide in the history of musical entertainment. But that isn’t how the Queen took her throne as one of rock’s best acts.

In reality, Freddie was a big fan of the band for some time and was a good friend of bassist Tim Staffell. He then introduced Mercury to his future bandmates which, at one point, he ran a flea market with, and they even lived together in London before the epic music odyssey had begun.[5] While this doesn’t sound like it plays out well in an enjoyable narrative, the coincidence thing gets everything wrapped up in that department in a matter of minutes. It is obvious why the filmmakers went this route.

6. Queen Never Split Up

Queen

No music biopic would be complete without the band breaking up scenario just to reunite in the third act kicking off the climax of the entire journey. And of course, Bohemian Rhapsody could not resist throwing this trope in the film. What is important to mention is that band members Brian May and Roger Taylor were heavily involved with making of this film. So when Queen fans see this in the movie they are inevitably going to be scratching their heads because the group never really broke up.

In Bohemian Rhapsody, Freddie receives a solo deal, and this upsets the band which ends up dissolving Queen. This conflict gets resolved as the group triumphantly puts aside their differences and performs at Live Aid. While this plays well on screen, what really went down is not so glamorous. Following a short break, the band was playing together again in 1983 all the way until the infamous Live Aid show in 1985.[6] They did have a two-month break before that legendary performance, so it was somewhat of a reunion but not as dramatic as the film made it out to be.

7. Freddie Mercury Was Not The First Member To Go Solo

Roger Taylor (Queen drummer)
Roger Taylor (Queen drummer)

Every band movie has a diva phase, and the film tries to establish one for Freddie Mercury. One of the big inciting incidents on the film is when Freddie Mercury signs a solo deal behind the band’s back. It enrages the other members causing Queen to break up. But in reality, Mercury not only didn’t sign any agreement behind the band’s back, but he wasn’t even the first member of the group to solo. The movie does this to build tension and drama, but it seems a bit jarring if you know your Queen history.

Taylor, who worked on the film, was actually the first member to go solo from Queen. He recorded an album in 1981 titled Fun in Space. Mercury’s debut solo album, Mr. Bad Guy, wasn’t released until 1985.[7] So while the film makes it seems like the band’s leading man was the first to jump ship and go it alone, it was one the film’s creative consultants that thought he could lone wolf it. It is very interesting that he conveniently chose to leave this part of history out of the film.

8. How Freddie Meets Jim Hutton

Freddie Mercury Jim Hutton

Mary Austin wasn’t the only one throughout Mercury’s illustrious music run that got his attention. The singer was Bisexual and had a male partner named Jim Hutton. Hutton is introduced the same way most Hollywood films do, in a dramatized version that is more visually appealing than what actually went down. Hutton was definitely Mercury’s partner in real life for some time but the way they met, in reality, is very different from the scenario showcased in the film.

Mercury is seen making a drunken pass at Hutton at a party. In the film, Hutton is working at this particular party as a waiter when he catches the eye of the Queen singer. After a conversation, the two go their separate ways only to have Mercury track him down years later. However, Hutton never worked as a waiter, and the two met at a club near the singer’s home in 1983.[8] Hutton was actually a hairdresser who worked at the Savoy Hotel.

9. Paul Prenter Firing Was Different in Real Life

Paul Prenter

Any good movie needs a villain and Bohemian Rhapsody is no different. In the film, Paul Prenter is painted to be the evildoer out to destroy everything Queen stands for. The evil-intentioned one-time manager is showcased in the pic as controlling and diabolical. After Mercury becomes wise to the man’s bad intentions he is immediately sacked from his position. This leads him to betray Mercury by going on television for an interview where he would reveal all of the frontman’s secrets.

So most of how the film depicts Prenter is accurate. The band members were not a fan of him in real life and his influence hurt the band in several ways. And above all else, he definitely was a jerk in real life. But the timing and details of his actions are very off. He was still on the team at Live Aid and he was in fact fired for doing the revealing interview. The interview was also in print and not televised. Mercury canned Prenter after he sold a story about AIDs and former lovers of Freddie to the Sun.[9] So he was a dirtbag whose evil actions were just muddled for the sake of the narrative.

10. Queen Did Not Sell Their Touring Van To Produce Their First Album

If the main characters in a story start off with the keys to the kingdom and there is no struggle in their journey to the top, then the movie will not resonate well with audience. Everyone can relate to the struggle of chasing your dream and the hardships one goes through when attempting to defy the odds. And while Queen certainly had their fair share of hardships throughout the early workings of their career, the way the film illustrates this overcoming of adversity is not very factual.

The Queen biopic has received a good amount of criticism for adhering to the cliche’s of music biopics and this spin on the actual events of the famed music groups start is definitely one of them. Queen did not sell their van but instead were very fortunate to get access to a studio via the Sheffield brothers.[10] They received this opportunity to use state of the art equipment for managerial rights and having the band members work in their downtime. This doesn’t sell the dramatic rags to riches story well enough so it was altered to involve a cash strapped band selling their means of transportation which is very rock and roll.

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