“Bohemian Rhapsody:” It May Rock, But Will it Shock?

Written by | Entertainment, Screen

Rami Malek as Freddy Mercury

Bohemian Rhapsody, the Queen biopic, has dropped a new preview. But will it tell the truth about Freddy Mercury, or simply burnish the band’s legend?

The film trailer (posted here) is certainly full of all the bombast and operatic harmony fans have come to expect from the band, who reigned supreme in the world of arena rock from the mid-’70s through their triumphant appearance at LIVE AID in 1985.

That the film has reached completion is something of a surprise to many, given that it’s had almost as tortured a road to the finish line as any since The Wizard of Oz changed directorial hands multiple times and lost much of its envisioned cast along the way to immortality.

As far back as 2010, Queen guitarist Brian May unveiled the project and announced that frontman and eventual AIDS casualty Freddy Mercury would be played by none other than Sacha Baron Cohen — the irreverent satirist behind the Ali G and Borat comedies.

Three years later, Cohen very publicly ditched the film after he understood that Mercury’s death from AIDs-related complications would be “the middle of the film” — tantamount to making a Michael Jackson movie in which the second half dwells on how his surviving brothers have soldiered on in his absence. Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon and The Queen), the project’s original screenwriter, had been working with Cohen and left the project almost simultaneously.

May quickly responded that Cohen had been an “arse” and announced that A Very English Scandal star Ben Whishaw would be stepping into the Mercury role. He never did.

Anthony McCarten came aboard to write a new script in 2015, which is when the film was retitled Bohemian Rhapsody.

The film lost its first director, Dexter Fletcher (Eddie the Eagle) in 2014, over differences similar to Cohen’s objections — largely that the film wasn’t telling enough truth about Mercury’s homosexuality and focused too much on parts of the Queen legacy that were already common public knowledge.

Once Rami Malek agreed to play Mercury, the film came to another crossroads when director Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects and several X-Men movies) was removed after what insiders called “erratic behavior,” including on-set rows with his star. In an unexpected turn of events, Fletcher returned to see the film to completion, only to face scorn when the first preview showed Mercury flirting with girls rather than boys.

The new trailer makes some strides in remedying that. Bohemian Rhapsody hits cinemas in November.

Last modified: July 25, 2019