SBox Analyzes: “Bohemian Rhapsody” (Upcoming Freddie Mercury movie)


Today marks a shocking 25 years since Freddie Mercury, lead singer of Queen, passed away at the age of 45. It’s deeply saddening to think about, but on this (ironic) Thanksgiving Day it’s important to think about the legacy Mercury was able to leave behind during his short 20 year career. A quarter-century later, listeners young and old still hear Freddie’s voice, whether it’s radio stations playing “Another One Bites the Dust”, sports stadiums playing “We Are the Champions, parties playing “We Will Rock You”, or movies playing “Bohemian Rhapsody”. Scholars still mark Freddie as one of the best singers of all-time as well as the best frontman in rock history. And if all goes well, his legacy may also be encapsulated by the next big biopic movie.

In honor of Freddie’s death, I’ve decided to resurrect a post I’ve been meaning to make for over two years. At the same time, this post will mark the return of a segment I haven’t done in well over a year, but have missed doing. Luckily for me, this subject has managed to remain relevant two years later as we’re still wondering what will become of this movie. Welcome back to SBox Analyzes where we’ll be discussing the yet to be released Freddie Mercury biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody. We’ll round up all the rumors and facts we know about the project and use it to predict how the final product will turn out. The things we don’t know, we’ll simply predict.

I’m going to try a different format for this series and cover each aspect of the project individually. Hopefully that will make this messy production a bit cleaner.

Background

The film project was first announced around 2010 by the two remaining members of Queen, Brian May and Roger Taylor. The film was originally planned for filming in 2011, but has ran into several developmental issues, most of which have to do with the film’s script, which must be approved by May and Taylor before continuing. Originally, Dexter Fletcher was set to direct the film while the role of Freddie was assigned to Sacha Baron Cohen and then Ben Wishaw. Peter Morgan of Frost/Nixon fame was also attached as the film’s writer. All four dropped out due to creative differences or scheduling conflicts. The film had been at a stand-still for years until November 4, 2016, when the film was assigned a stable director, screenwriter, studio, producers, and lead actor.

Story

From the beginning of this announcement, there has been a ton of debate as to this film’s story; when it will take place, what events will be covered, and how close to the source material are they going. Over the years, there have been multiple perspectives on the story’s timeframe, but most sources suggest that it’ll cover the formative years of the band all the way up to their performance at Live Aid, considered one of the best live performances of all-time. That puts our timeframe between 1970 and 1985.

There’s a lot of content to choose from in those 15 years, and it perfectly hits all the beats of a typical biopic: the formation, the rise, the fall, and the resurgence. Given Queen’s history, these are the events I believe will make the film:

  • Freddie attends a Smile concert and meets Brian May and Roger Taylor; Freddie joins as Tim Staffell departs
  • John Deacon auditions as bass player
  • Queen signs with production company and makes Queen I and II
  • Queen headlining the Mott the Hoople tour and withdrawal due to May’s hepatitis
  • Queen splits from production company following Sheer Heart Attack
  • A Night at the Opera is made, and Queen becomes a success
  • Montage covering A Day at the Races, News of the World, and Jazz
  • Band completed The Game and meets Michael Jackson; beginning of downfall
  • Bandmates do solo projects following Hot Space
  • Band comes back together to create The Works
  • Bob Geldof offers Queen gig on Live Aid; Live Aid performance

From there, everything else is extra. It should be noted that this film is mostly about Freddie Mercury, which means we’ll also be seeing Freddie’s relationship with Mary Austin, and his other relationship with Kenny Everett. We may also see his friendship with Michael Jackson and David Bowie, and we’ll definitely see the making of his solo album Mr. Bad Guy.

Interestingly, the film seems to be completely glossing over Mercury’s battle with AIDS and his death. This is a decision I originally didn’t like, but eventually understood.Those last 6 years of Queen’s run with Freddie are incredibly interesting years with scenes that write themselves. However, there’s enough content there to fill its own movie. This reminds me of Straight Outta Compton, which ironically also features a band who lost their lead member to AIDS. Unfortunately, the final act that contains Eazy-E’s death was considered by many to be the weakest part of the film. I feel that in avoiding it they’re avoiding the same criticism.

Does that mean there will be zero mention of Freddie’s death. Hopefully not. A film about Freddie Mercury would feel weird if you just put it in text form at the end. There is a way to show it without dwelling on it (and Fox is free to take this idea if they want it). Set the last scene in the film in 1991 during the recording session for Innuendo. Freddie walks in visibly ill and weak and is preparing to record “The Show Must Go On”. Despite Brian May’s concern, Freddie says his famous line “I’ll fucking do it, darling”, knocks back the vodka, and walks into the booth. Fade to black, and the song plays through the credits. That’s how I’d end the film.

Whatever direction or moments they decide to adapt for the film, I feel it will be incredibly faithful and highly entertaining. That’s due to an actual fact about this project that should give fans hope. The current screenwriter is none other than Anthony McCarten, the Oscar award winning screenwriter of The Theory of Everything. If McCarten can handle the story of Queen as well as he covered the story of Stephen Hawking, we’re in good hands.

Director

After the departure of Dexter Fletcher, someone with experience directing musicals and biopics, the question arose of who could step up to the task of directing this kind of movie. The answer was finally revealed this month to be Bryan Singer… Interesting.

If you’re like me and many other comic book movie fans, you’ll know Singer best as director of the X-Men movies. More specifically, he’s the director of the good X-Men movies (like X2 and Days of Future Past). That’s great and all, but the question on most people’s minds is what he can bring to the story of Freddie Mercury. It’s true that Bryan Singer isn’t just the X-Men guy, having directed several films since the 90’s. When he’s not dealing with superhero action flicks, he’s directing thrillers (historical, horror, and even criminal). Sure, this will be his first real exercise in drama, but I think his background in thrillers will go really well in Bohemian Rhapsody. I can imagine the build up for that Live Aid scene or when Brian May collapsed at the Mott the Hoople tour.

It’s also worth noting that Bryan Singer, like Mercury, is bisexual. I only bring that up due to how key Freddie’s sexuality was to his life story, and my hope is that Singer’s involvement will make those moments involving Freddie’s sexuality much more personal and authentic.

Studio/Release Date

This film went a long time without a distributor, but the film finally found a home with 20th Century Fox. This becomes important in terms of this film’s budget, marketing, and release date.

I looked up every biopic distributed by 20th Century Fox in the past six years and measured their budgets to give us a general idea of this film’s budget. Most biopics by Fox range from $40-60 million in budget. Their lowest budget for a biopic was Eddie the Eagle at $23 million, and the highest was The Revenant at $135 million. My guess is that Bohemian Rhapsody may get around a $50 million budget, which is a fair amount. If Bridge of Spies, which has one of the most beautiful set designs of 2015, was accomplished with $60 million, and a film with less visual or geographical fidelity like Joy needed $40 million, I think Bohemian Rhapsody will do fine with an in-between price. It should be enough to film scenes at Wembley Stadium or Hyde Park.

As for marketing, I that may depend heavily on when the film is released, because bigger films could exist around Bohemian Rhapsody’s release. Assuming it’s a slow month with a bigger movie a couple weeks away, you could expect marketing similar to Joy and Bridge of Spies; just big enough to be noticed.

Finally, there’s the issue of release date. According to Bryan Singer, filming should start in early 2017. If that’s true and there’s not yet another delay, that means that we could expect filming as soon as casting is complete. I predict that it will be between February and April, which would mean a potential release date of late 2018. Given the current 2018 movie schedule and Fox’s upcoming film slate, I would aim for either October or December. October may be a bit hectic due to it being Halloween and it being sandwiched between a DCEU film and Disney’s Mulan remake, but it would coincide with the anniversary of the actual song “Bohemian Rhapsody”. December would be a more opportune spot, right after the premiere of Fantastic Beats and Where to Find Them 2 and weeks before the Spider-Man animated movie.

Producers

The film will be produced by GK Films and New Regency. Towards the beginning of production, TriBeCa Productions was also tied to the project as producer, but I’m not sure if that relationship still exists. I’ll assume it’s not.

Both of these companies are great fits for this project. New Regency has an extensive track record with an impressive credit list including Birdman, Gone Girl, 12 Years a Slave, and The Big Short among others. GK Films has a few bumps on their track record, but for every 5th Wave they have a Departed. For every Dark Shadows they have a World War Z. GK Films also gets props for their work on Jersey Boys, the musical biopic of The Four Seasons. And they’re also the ones who hired Bryan Singer. Together, they have a ton to offer this project. Hopefully, Bohemian Rhapsody will have a mix of New Regency’s quality and GK Film’s structure.

Composers

I’m really glad to hear that Brian May and Roger Taylor have a big hand in this movie. My hope is that they will be the Midas Touch this film needs to be something really special. Even John Deacon, while not being directly involved with the Queen since 1997 and therefore not involved with this movie, gave his blessing for the film.

It certainly helps that they’re serving as musical producers for the film as well. Granted, this may just mean that Queen songs will in fact be in the movie, but I’m hoping they’ll also have a hand in the film’s score, too. Need we forget that Queen made the soundtracks for Flash Gordon and Highlander, plus Brian May has been involved in other film soundtracks thereafter.

Casting

Last, and certainly not least, the casting. Perhaps the biggest news surrounding this movie through the years has involved the casting. As previously stated, Sacha Baron Cohen was originally set to play Freddie to much fan appraisal. Admit it. He was the perfect choice. Unfortunately, he dropped out due to creative differences that seemed pretty substantial. Ben Wishaw was then attached to the film. A decent choice that was squandered due to this film’s developmental problems running the clock. Wishaw went on to film Spectre, but now we have our third lead actor for Freddie: Mr. Robot star Rami Malek.

I don’t follow Mr. Robot and can’t speak much for his acting chops, but I can definitely tell you that the resemblance is there. With a mustache and the right haircut you definitely have someone who looks just like Freddie. And my hope is that he can portray the fun-loving, extroverted frontman, as well as the reclusive, artistic man that Freddie was.

Though, that leaves one aspect unanswered: the supporting cast. Who else will star in the movie? What characters will appear? Could we see any other big names?

Well we definitely know that the other three members of Queen will definitely be in the movie. These guys won’t be too easy to cast, especially if they’re not fresh talent. There’s enough speculation for this topic to fill its own post, but for the sake of time, I’ll just give you my top two choices for each member.

Brian May

  • Andrew Garfield: Not a ton of resemblance, but enough similarity in height and stature to resemble May. Just put a wig on him and squint.
  • Ryan Catwright: We’re a little closer to the mark physically, and he can definitely sell the intelligence of Brian May.

Roger Taylor

  • Rufus Tiger Taylor: Similar to O’Shea Jackson, Jr. in Straight Outta Compton, Roger Taylor’s son has a striking resemblance to his father. Sure, it’s a long shot if he would actually star as his father in the film (not to mention he’s a lot taller than his father), but it would be cool nonetheless.
  • Daniel Radcliffe: This is also a long shot, but I think this would be pretty good casting. He may not be blonde, but he is a bit closer to Taylor’s height and eye color.

John Deacon

  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt: This is a really popular choice around the web, and I can see why. Gordon-Levitt definitely looks a lot like John Deacon.
  • If Andrew Garfield or Daniel Radcliffe can’t play the above characters, they’d also be good choices for Deacon.

There are a ton of other characters to consider as well, but that’ll depend on the story they plan to tell. The characters I feel are pivotal for this movie include Roy Thomas Baker, Mary Austin, Kenny Everett, Mike Stone, John Reid, and potentially the members of Mott the Hoople, Michael Jackson, David Bowie and Bob Geldof. Naming potential actors for all of them will take all day, but my hope is that they get a cast great enough to work alongside Rami Malek.


That is everything I currently can say about the Freddie Mercury biopic. I’m glad I was finally able to get it posted after all these years, and I hope to make a lot more posts like it. Let me know if you agree with my predictions or not in the comments, so the conversation can keep on going.

Have a very happy and delicious Thanksgiving!

I’m SBox180. Thanks for reading!

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