On November 24, 1991, a world-shaking phenomenon occurred. Word spread quickly that the world famous rock singer, Freddie Mercury, had died after a 4-year struggle with AIDs. The world mourned this loss and came together to heal through Freddie’s legendary and memorable music. After Mercury’s death, many remember him as a legendary man who changed the music scene forever. Even the band’s guitarist, Brian May, says “I will never grow tired of hearing (Bohemian Rhapsody,)” Queen’s most memorable musical masterpiece.
Recent movie producers decided to make a movie that takes viewers through Queen’s journey to fame, told from Freddie Mercury’s perspective. On November 2, 2018, a movie named for Queen’s chart-topping song “Bohemian Rhapsody” was released. The film won 2 Golden Globes on January 6, 2019. Bohemian Rhapsody is a mostly accurate representation of this underdog band growing in fame throughout the ’70s and ’80s. Freddie Mercury’s path to success was long and full of roadblocks, just like many other famous rock musicians. It had some interesting differences as well, which may be the reason why a biopic has Queen’s music flying up the charts to the highest ranking since the 1980s!
As I mentioned earlier, the movie tells a “mostly” accurate version of Queen’s journey to success. Queen’s journey was incredibly theatrical, but some details had to be changed for the screen. The movie starts with Freddie Mercury’s morning routine before Live Aid, a 1985 charity concert, still known today as the world’s most viewed concert, with an estimated 1.9 billion viewers. The benefit raised a total of 127 million pounds, and superstars took no profit. The actual concert performance is not seen until the end of the movie, but this movie used Mercury’s entrance on to the stage as a surreal attention grabber for viewers.
The first mistake that the movie made is how Freddie joined the band. After the Live Aid entrance, the movie cuts to Freddie leaving home to watch a band called “Smile” play at a local pub in London. This band did exist and included 2 future Queen members, guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor. The movie shows Freddie Mercury, at the time still called Freddie Bulsara, enjoying the music and talking to the band after their performance. As Freddie walks up to the band, he receives the news that the lead singer had just quit minutes before his arrival. He auditions then and there and joins the band, which he later renamed Queen. The real story may have been cut for time, or for lack of interesting details. The real story is a lot more boring. Freddie had made friends with the lead singer of Smile, Tim Staffell, and drummer Roger Taylor. They were a very close group; they even shared a small flat in London. During this time, Freddie had been hopping from band to band in hopes of making it big. His ideas were always too outrageous for his current band, so he left to find new opportunities. Tim Staffell quit Smile for another band, with the same high hopes as Freddie. After a few years in limbo, Smile was still looking for a new band member and Freddie finally decided to audition. No surprise, he became the new frontman for Smile, and later renamed the band Queen!
Queen’s rise to fame continues as the movie progresses, as any good movie continues, conflict arises. Freddie Mercury has found a way to live life to its most dangerous, full potential, while other band members choose to settle down and start a family. In the movie, Freddie signs a deal to create 2 solo albums for a total of 4 million pounds. The band has a huge falling out over this, claiming that they are a family and need to stick together. Freddie lashes out at them and leaves, claiming that they would be nothing without him, and he needs a break. This creates a huge conflict to keep viewers hooked throughout the movie, but in actuality, the band never broke up. Roger Taylor was also the first to pursue a solo career and the band had no problem with it. Other members of Queen took their shot at a solo album too, so when Freddie branched off it came as no surprise. There were rumors of Queen breaking up, but these came about due to the band’s quarrels about songs and recording. No break up ever happened, Queen never even discussed it. This added fictitious detail does bring you further into the story.
The last major difference that I felt was necessary to mention was the time of Freddie discovery that he had the incurable disease, AIDS. In the movie, Freddie starts noticing changes in his health, after a huge falling out with his past manager, Paul Prenter. He fires Prenter for hiding the invitation for Queen to perform in Live Aid and decides to take his life in a better direction. Freddie goes to the doctor and gets the news that he is HIV positive, just a few weeks before Live Aid. This provides the opportunity for the movie to end with the iconic Live Aid performance and explain how Freddie died. In actuality, the press has quotes from Jim Hutton, Freddie’s partner for the last 6 years of his life, confirming that Freddie didn’t take any HIV tests until the year 1987 when he tested positive. Live Aid took place in July 1985, making the movie’s ending impossible.
These differences between the movie and actuality are very big, but overall, the movie did a fairly thorough job of fitting Queen’s inspiring journey to fame into a 2 ½ hour movie. This inspiring tribute movie, Bohemian Rhapsody, took information from real life and kept most facts far from fantasy.
Story by Lily Crum
Bohemian Rhapsody: The Definitive Biography of Freddie Mercury by Lesley-Ann Jones