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November 21, 2018

What ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ gets right — and wrong — about Queen and Freddie Mercury

November 2, 2018
Ben Hardy, Gwilym Lee, Joseph Mazzello and Rami Malek star in “Bohemian Rhapsody.” (Photo Credit: Alex Bailey / 20th Century Fox)

Warning: This article contains “Bohemian Rhapsody” spoilers.

Some of details included in the new Queen biopic about the band’s illustrious heyday strike exactly the right note, while a few others seem to have gotten the Hollywood treatment.




Here’s a look at a few moments in “Bohemian Rhapsody” that are historically accurate, as well as some parts in the movie that are matters of fiction.

Fact: Queen’s performance at Live Aid

The band’s show-stealing 25-minute set at the star-studded Live Aid concert in 1985 is widely regarded as not just one of the best Queen performances ever, but as one of the greatest rock shows of all-time.

The movie captures the energy and magic of that performance with an impressive attention to detail. The actors made it a point to duplicate even the subtlest onstage movements that their characters made in real life to make it as close to a mirror image as possible.

“We had to be very, very particular,” Joseph Mazzello, who plays bassist John Deacon, told the Daily News. “Every movement had to be replicated from the actual performance because it was so famous. We wanted people to go look at that, and look at what we were doing, and then go watch the movie and be like, ‘See, we put in the effort.’”

Although the final cut of the movie only shows four of the seven songs Queen played that evening at Wembley Stadium, the actors filmed the full set, and it’s expected to appear in its entirety on the DVD release of “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

Fiction: How Freddie Mercury met the band and Mary Austin

The movie suggests that Mercury — whose real name was Farrokh Bulsara — met Brian May and Roger Taylor on the night that Tim Staffell, the lead singer of their previous band Smile, bailed on the group. The scene shows Mercury introducing himself, wowing them with his singing voice and joining the band from there.

In reality, Mercury was already friends with Staffell and met May and Taylor through him before Smile ever dissipated. Staffell leaving Smile did open the door for Mercury to join musical forces with May and Taylor.

The film also makes it look like Mercury met Mary Austin, whom he dated and ultimately remained lifelong friends with, on that same night. But Austin actually dated May before Mercury — and the singer asked the guitarist if it would be OK if he dated Austin.

“Freddie came up to me one day and said, ‘Are you serious with Mary? Can I ask her out?’ And he did, and they were lovers for a long time,” May told Yahoo Music.

FACT: The making of ‘We Will Rock You’

The rousing stadium classic is one of the most universally known and interactive songs in the rock genre, and that’s exactly how May intended for it to be when he wrote it.

“Bohemian Rhapsody” shows May sharing the idea for a song that allows the audience to essentially supply the beat, coming up with “We Will Rock You.”




The guitarist has confirmed that’s the real story for the 1977 hit in a number of interviews over the years, referencing an experience he had where the audience sang along to every song.

“A light went off and I thought, ‘We shouldn’t fight this, we should embrace it!’ People didn’t do that at the time at rock concerts,” May told Billboard last year. I thought, ‘How interesting — if I wrote something, the audience could participate it to the point that they could lead the band?’ I went to sleep and woke up with ‘We Will Rock You’ in my head. When you’re at a show you can hardly move, but you can stomp your feet and chant and clap and lead us.”

FICTION: Mercury’s HIV diagnosis

In the movie, Mercury learns he has the disease shortly before his band’s 1985 performance at Live Aid and informs his bandmates of his diagnosis during rehearsals the week of the show.

In reality, however, Mercury is believed to have been diagnosed with the disease no earlier than 1986, meaning the timeline was off.

He died from complications stemming from AIDS in 1991, when he was 45.

FACT: Freddie’s teeth

During an early portion of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Mercury credits having four extra incisors in his mouth for giving him a wider singing range.

It has indeed been widely reported that Mercury had four extra teeth, and that he never got his overbite fixed because he was afraid it would impact his voice.

Actor Rami Malek, who plays Mercury in the film, wore fake teeth throughout the movie to better capture the rock icon’s appearance.

FICTION: Record exec Ray Foster

Mike Myers — better known for comedies such as “Austin Powers” and “Shrek” — makes a cameo in the movie as a close-minded EMI record executive named Ray Foster who refuses to release the song “Bohemian Rhapsody” as a single, pushing for “You’re My Best Friend” instead.

It appears, however, that Foster was not a real person, but rather a composite character constructed for the movie.

Mike Myers plays a character named Ray Foster in "Bohemian Rhapsody."
Mike Myers plays a character named Ray Foster in “Bohemian Rhapsody.” (20th Century Fox)

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