The ground-breaking and iconic band Queen have defied the odds, remaining vanguards of music and pop culture over the decades. In the trendiest clubs around the world, DJs frequently play Queen hits, along with music from many contemporary artists whom Queen inspired. Meanwhile, until today, in football stadiums round the globe, fans stomp-stomp-clap in unison, and chant Queen’s anthemic ‘We Will Rock You’. Queen’s brand of music and beat is irresistible, the style, timeless. Transcending generations, unlike many 70s and 80s groups that came and went, Queen remains as relevant today as they were then.
Directed by Bryan Singer, “Bohemian Rhapsody” stars Rami Malek in an uncanny performance as Freddie Mercury, charting Queen’s extraordinary story, from the band’s roots as bright London college students, to the dazzling heights of international stardom, when they filled stadiums across the world at record-breaking concerts, including the legendary 1985 performance at Live Aid, which was watched by a global audience of 1.9 billion and raised money for the famine in Ethiopia. As the story unfolds, it becomes crystal clear why the band had such lasting appeal. The film also stars Gwilym Lee who plays Queen’s lead guitarist Brian May, Ben Hardy as drummer Roger Taylor, and Joe Mazzello as bass guitarist John Deacon, as well as Mike Myers and Tom Hollander.
More than 20 years after Freddie’s death, the band and their songs remain hugely popular until today, “Bohemian Rhapsody” now takes the audience on how four talented musicians, 3 academics and an art student, came together to form 20th century’s greatest band of all time who broke boundaries in the music industry.
Real life Queen lead guitarist Brian May and drummer guided the filmmakers throughout and Jim Beach (Queen’s lawyer-turned-manager) produces with award-winning Graham King. Certainly the cast made a lasting impression on Brian May. “When I first walked on the set and saw Gwilym Lee in his costume and wig, it was almost like looking in the mirror!” says the musician. “He did a very good job of being me! And Rami Malek is so convincing as Freddie, down to the body language. And Joe Mazzello as Deacy is uncanny. John wasn’t a very outgoing personality, but he had a very distinct way of performing, and Joe got it down, just as Ben Hardy completely absorbed Roger Taylor‘s spirit in his performance.”
Tasked with creating the look of the film was production designer Aaron Haye, and call it serendipity, his team team included two members of the construction team that built the real stage for Live Aid in 1985. Freddie Mercury’s personal assistant Peter Freestone, who was with him for 12 years until his death, was an advisor on the film, and his personal knowledge was invaluable.
“As soon as we arrived, we felt the excitement,“ recalls Freestone of that epic day in July 1985. “There was a good atmosphere. It was really friendly, and there was no competition, which quite often can happen when you have this sort of lineup. Queen took to the stage, and the audience went wild right from the start of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. And the atmosphere backstage changed; it became electric. Something had happened. Eighteen minutes later, the band came off stage and they’d nailed it. The audience was going wild, and backstage people were applauding.”
All that hard work paid dividends. “It was amazing,” says May. “The moment I walked onto that stage, it was surreal because it perfectly replicated what the stage was like in 1985 – every last detail down to the amps behind me, pedals and even the cloth and back stage with the cigarette butts and the ashtrays and the coke bottles. What a wonderful job they did!”
Peter Freestone was taken aback by the set’s authenticity. “It was a déjà vu moment,” he says. “The first time I saw the set I just couldn’t believe it. It’s exactly the same size. Everything was right, from the stage to backstage even to the peeling paint off the walls and the rust coming down from water pipes. It got the goose bumps going.”
Get ready to step in the most jaw-dropping nostalgic walk down memory lane as 20th Century Fox releases “Bohemian Rhapsody” in Philippine cinemas on October 31.