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What ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ Got Wrong And Right

Even after scoring number one box-office spot, $50 million in ticket sales and an A CinemaScore from audiences everywhere, Bohemian Rhapsody still faced many mixed reviews from critics. Most argued that the plotting and pacing of the film was messy, some also cited a number of historical inaccuracies that made the film fall flat. Here is what the movie Bohemian Rhapsody got wrong and right.

Scene from

Bryan Singer, Director of Bohemian Rhapsody

Scene from "Bohemian Rhapsody"

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Even after scoring number one box-office spot, $50 million in ticket sales and an A CinemaScore from audiences everywhere, Bohemian Rhapsody still faced many mixed reviews from critics. Most argued that the plotting and pacing of the film was messy, some also cited a number of historical inaccuracies that made the film fall flat. Here is what the movie Bohemian Rhapsody got wrong and right.

It took much longer in real life for Freddie to join Queen. In the movie, a scene shows a young Freddie approaching Brian May and Roger Taylor after the show where their frontman and bassist Tim Staffell has just quit, singing a few bars of their song “Doin’ Alright” and joining the band after. In reality, Freddie had been good friends with Staffell, met and got to know Brian and Roger through Staffell, and even lived with the two before Staffell quit and he joined in.

 

The National
Freddie Mercury, left, performs at Live Aid in 1985, and Rami Malek, right, recreates the moment in ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. Rex; Twentieth Century Fox

Neither Freddie nor Queen knew about his AIDS diagnosis before Live Aid. In the film, Freddie informs his bandmates of his diagnosis during a rehearsal one week before their famous Live Aid performance in 1985. But by almost all accounts, including one from Jim Hutton himself, Freddie didn’t even know he had the disease until April 1987.

 

Queen’s Live Aid performance wasn’t a “reunion.” The band’s reunion in the film is characterized as seizing the opportunity to perform at Live Aid. Really, the band has already been back together when the benefit came around, they even recorded and released their album The Works after their reunion but before Live Aid.

 

Freddie Mercury and Mary Austin really were as close as the film shows. Throughout the film, after the fallout of their relationship, Freddie and Mary maintain a friendship that lasted for the rest of the singer’s life. This is true to life, and may even be an understatement of how close the two truly were. At the end of his life, Mercury even went as far as to leave half of his wealth and estate to Mary.

 

Freddie did credit his teeth for his singing voice. Upon meeting Brian May and Roger Taylor in the film, Freddie remarks that while his teeth may look funny, it’s because he has four extra incisors that he has such dramatic vocal range. This is something that the singer truly believed. While he was insecure about his teeth for much of his life, he always denied those who said he could have them fixed, saying he was concerned surgery, or too much dentistry could affect his singing.

 

Freddie Mercury and Jim Hutton

Irish Central
In Bohemian Rhapsody, after Freddie throws a lavish and wild party at his home, he meets Jim Hutton (Aaron McCusker), one of the servers at the bash, and drunkenly hit on him. Freddie later apologizes for his behavior and they share a conversation before a romantic relationship develops. In real life, as recalled in
Queen: As It Began, Mercury met Hutton, an Irish hairdresser, at a London club called Heaven sometime in the early-to-mid-’80s. Reportedly, Hutton later moved into Mercury’s home. According to Is This the Real Life?, Mercury told Hutton he was HIV positive and would understand if the relationship ended right there. Hutton, however, dismissed this and stuck by Mercury, even helping to take care of the singer in his final days. “I do like to think that his last few years were as happy as they could have possibly ever been,” he said of Mercury in the 2000 documentary Freddie Mercury: The Untold Story.  Hutton died of lung cancer in 2010 at the age of 60.

 

Bohemian Rhapsody, Directed by
In a somewhat uncharacteristic and straightforward role, Mike Myers appears as Ray Foster, an executive at EMI Records, Queen’s British record label. During a heated meeting with the band, Foster steadfastly refuses “Bohemian Rhapsody” as a single, nothing that radio station wouldn’t play a six-minute song. “Mark these words. No one will play Queen,” he says in the movie. Queen, and especially Freddie, don’t back down, and they walk out of Foster’s office. There is no mention of a Ray Foster in previous Queen articles, books or documentaries, so it appears he’s a fictional character. There’s some talk that he’s loosely based on Roy Featherstone, the band’s A&R guy at EMI Records. According to
Queen: As it Began, Featherstone was eager to sign the band after he heard a tape of Queen’s first album in 1973 while in France. He even sent a telegram urging the group not to sign with any other label until he returned. “I was knocked out,” Featherstone late recalled upon hearing the tape. “What stood out to me as the combination of Freddie’s voice and Brian’s guitar on a track call “Liar.” Perhaps the character of Foster in the film is a composite of several EMI record executives who were concerned about the slim chances of “Bohemian Rhapsody” getting airplay on the radio. In Mark Blake’s Is This the Real Life? EMI executive Paul Watts recalled, “I was expecting something very special. So when they played me ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, my reaction was, “What the ****’s this? Are you mad?” Regardless, Queen was vindicated when “Bohemian Rhapsody” took off after the song was played on DJ Kenny Everett’s radio show.


Bohemian Rhapsody is arguably one of the best movies of the year and, despite some inaccuracies and slip-ups, did a very good job of artistically telling the story of Freddie Mercury’s journey with music and his bandmates, while making sure he is presented, first and foremost, as a musician because that was what was most important to him.

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