Bryan Singer’s musical drama Bohemian Rhapsody exploded onto the scene in 2018, bringing in long-time fans and the curious youth to learn the story of the band Queen. This biopic follows the story of the band, focusing mostly on Freddie Mercury’s journey, as they create one of their most popular songs “Bohemian Rhapsody.” While the movie does an incredible job recreating the journey of the members of Queen, like any modern biopic, some creative liberties are taken. So, I wanted to dive into some of the movie’s details to see just how accurate the movie is to the true story. Let’s see what parts are “the real life” and which are just fantasy.
Fact – Freddie Mercury and His Cats
In the movie, there’s a scene of Freddie Mercury (played by Rami Malek) calling from the road asking to speak to one of his cats. This is actually true. Mercury’s personal assistant Peter Freestone said that “He’d get to a hotel, we’d dial through, and he really would talk to his cats.” Whoever was watching them in turn would hold the cats up to the receiver so Mercury could talk to them. He truly was a cat lover, even allegedly having his many cats have their own rooms.
Fiction – How They Met
In the movie, they portray Freddie Mercury meeting Brian and Roger after checking out their band Smile at a show he went to after work. The truth is that Mercury already knew May, Taylor, and Staffell for some time when the three were in Smile. Staffell and Mercury met while they were students at Ealing Art College, and Staffell introduced Mercury to his bandmates in 1968. The four of them even shared an apartment together before Mercury joined the band after Staffell, their singer and bassist at the time, quit.
Fact – The Performances
Bohemian Rhapsody tries very hard to replicate the true performances of Queen right down to the little details. How you see the performances are just like how they were done by the real people they’re portraying. You can watch this side by side if you are skeptical.
Fiction – Who Was Against Bohemian Rhapsody as a Single
The movie shows Queen’s label balking at the idea of a 6-minute song and how that wouldn’t be radio-friendly or work as a single. While this is true, there is no sign of the Ray Foster character (the one that tells them this was created for the movie) in history.
Fact – Mercury Crediting His Teeth
Like in the movie, Freddie Mercury really did believe that his big teeth helped him have his incredible singing voice. This isn’t to say that he wasn’t insecure about his teeth for much of his life. He was, but he always denied a chance to have them fixed because he was concerned surgery or too much dentistry could affect his singing voice. He also allegedly won the most contagious smile in 1975.
Fiction – Mercury's HIV Diagnosis
The movie frames the diagnosis as his bandmates and those close to him finding out about Freddie’s diagnosis right before a concert after he returned from Munich. They have to watch him perform knowing of his death sentence. The truth is that it’s widely disputed when Mercury actually caught the disease. Biographer Jones claims it could have been as early as 1982. This would mean that he lived for six more years after the Live Aid performance and didn’t tell his bandmates about his diagnosis until 1989. This is very possible as people close to him had said he didn’t want to talk about it and preferred to just live for as long as he could without thinking about the diagnosis. And he did. This move from the truth makes sense as a movie always tends to raise the tension of a conflict. Having everyone know adds more darkness to what’s to come for Mercury in the movie.
Fact – Mercury and Austin’s Bond
The movie portrays Freddie Mercury’s relationship with Mary Austin as a very close one that even continues after they break up and she moves on. This is accurate to how they truly were. Freddie and Mary Austin remained friends until Freddie died. Those moments of Austin comforting him and telling him how she feels are very accurate. In fact, they may have been closer than the movie even let on. They were so close in fact that Freddie Mercury left half of his wealth and estate to Mary Austin.
Fiction – We Will Rock You
The movie, particularly the trailer, attempts to reenact the band coming up with “We Will Rock You” down to Mercury teaching his bandmates handclapping and foot-stomping that would go with it. In it, Freddie has short hair and a thick mustache. While this is an accurate look, it doesn’t line up with when this song was accurately created as that look is often associated with the 80s. “We Will Rock You” was actually created in 1977 after Brian May decided he wanted to write a crowd anthem that would give people something to do in unison at Queen shows. It would have been more accurate for Mercury to still be rocking his long hair in this scene.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the history of Queen and how the movie laid out their journey. I think, for the most part, they did an amazing job, especially in capturing Freddie Mercury’s amazing energy through the phenomenal acting of Rami Malek.
Did you think the movie was a good representation? Which detail of the movie did you notice that they changed? Let me know in the comments.
Written by Kristen Petronio
Special thanks to these articles for helping me compile the information for this post.