When they first announced that there would be a Fredde Mercury movie, the general reaction was but WHO could possibly play Freddie??? (Followed also by thoughts like please don’t let it be Johnny Depp.) When it was announced that Mr. Robot’s Rami Malek would be taking on the role, there was widespread relief – I can see it – but still, a fair bit of worrying by Freddie’s biggest fans. The four-octave voice, bombastic stage persona and one-of-a-kind personality are seemingly impossible shoes to fill. And now, you can stop holding your breath, because the first pictures from the set of the biopic about the Queen frontman are finally here.
The first photo shows Malek not only looking the point, but exuding the flamboyance that the singer was best known for. The movie, Bohemian Raphsody, is out on Christmas Day 2018. The Brain Singer film begins with Queen in 1970 and concludes at Mercury’s iconic Live Aid performance in 1985.
The timespan is a bit curious, in that it ends six years before Mercury’s death from AIDS complications in 1991. Although it’s understandable not to want to focus on Mercury’s death, it was a major moment in the history of gay rights and AIDS actvism, since few people were willing to come out of the closet at the time, and it was a huge stigma. Sacha Barron Cohen had been attached to the project for years, but dropped out, telling Howard Stern that Queen guitarist Brian May wanted to neuter Mercury’s sexuality. May denied the claim, saying “Sacha became an arse. We had some nice times with Sacha kicking around ideas, but he went off and told untruths about what happened. Why would he go away and say that we didn’t want to make a gritty film? Are we the kind of people who have ever ducked from the truth? I don’t think so.”
The photo that was released shows Malek playing Mercury in the moment of the Live Aid concert, the way many still remember him today. Malek credited hair and makeup, saying “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.” Singer and Malek had the help of Queenn’s Brian May and Roger Taylor, who are on board to lend the movie authenticity.
The million-dollar question now becomes how the movie will handle Mercury’s once-in-a-generation voice. Its uniqueness would be hard to replicate, even by a seasoned singer. Malek says recordings of Mercury are used wherever possible, supplemented by a sound alike and where plausible, with Malek himself. “We’re going to use Freddie as much as possible and use myself as much as possible,” Malek says.“I’m in Abbey Road [Studios] right now if that should say anything to you. I’m not working on my acting.”
Singer said his movie is not a traditional biopic in any sense, but instead focuses on the music and honoring the contributions that Queen made to rock and roll history. “It won’t just be the dark Freddie story, but that being said, that also will be honored,” Singer says. “It’s about collaboration. It’s a celebration.”
The cast is rounded out by Ben Hardy as Roger Taylor, Gwilym Lee as Brian May, Joe Mazzello as John Deacon, Lucy Boynton as play Mercury’s longtime friend Mary Austin, Aaron McCusker as Mercury’s lover Jim Hutton, and Allen Leech as Judas Paul Prenter. Mike Myers, Aidan Gillen and Tom Hollander have also boarded the production.