Home Movie Bohemian Rhapsody, the Errors.

Bohemian Rhapsody, the Errors.

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Everybody who knows me knows I’m a big Queen fan. In fact, it’s more than that. I am a fanatic, I’m obsessed, I’m besotted with Queen. I could give an academic lecture on the life of Freddie Mercury. Recently, the film Bohemian Rhapsody came out in Italy. The film is a box office hit, despite the controversy about its making (the Director, Bryan Singer, was fired shortly before filming ended and was replaced by Dexter Fletcher). The film tells the life of Freddie Mercury, from his early years in London to the 1985 Live Aid Concert.

The numerous inaccuracies or, to put it more diplomatically, the amount of artistic licence taken with respect to the real life of Freddie Mercury and the career of Queen, also raised many eyebrows. So today, I have decided to describe the major errors, inaccuracies, omissions and, occasionally, even inventions that await you, should you go to see the film.

Let’s start! (obviously, for those who haven’t seen the movie, reading any further will present a spoiler risk for you).

The meeting with Brian May and Roger Taylor

What happens in the film?

The first contact between Mercury and the future guitarist and drummer of Queen, then members of a group called Smile, takes place after one of their performances. Going backstage to meet them, Freddie persuades them to try him out as their new singer, after Tim Staffell leaves the band.

What really happened.

Mercury already had a band of his own, called Ibex. Moreover, he knew the members of Smile well because he and Staffell attended the same art institute in 1969. A year before the scene shown on the screen, the four of them were even flatmates. On top of this, Freddie didn’t wait for his friend’s departure to try to join the band. He had been pestering May and Taylor for months, but they always refused because of Freddie’s voice, which at that time was too sharp and immature.

La realtà.

Mercury era già attivo come musicista di suo, in una band chiamata Ibex. Inoltre, conosceva bene i membri di Smile poiché lui e Staffell frequentavano lo stesso istituto d’arte nel 1969. Un anno prima della scena mostrata sullo schermo, e i quattro furono addirittura coinquilini . Inoltre, Freddie non aspettò l’addio dell’amico per tentate di entrare a far parte della band, ma importunò May e Taylor per mesi, che rifiutarono sempre per via della voce troppo acuta e immatura di Freddie ai quei tempi.

Mary Austin

What happens in the film?

Freddie meets Mary at a Smile concert (she becomes his partner, best friend and confidant) and it is made clear that the girl is a fan of the group.

What really happened.

The two actually met later on. Mary had an affair with Brian May, and Mercury asked her to go out only after this romance was over. Also, Mary Austin started following the band only once she and Freddie were an item. Their friendship, moreover, never went through the period of crisis depicted in the second part of the feature film, when Mercury’s hedonism takes over.

John Deacon

What happens in the film?

Queen’s famous bass guitarist appears in the film as a member of the group already at the first concert in 1970.

What really happened.

Former bass player of Queen John Deacon

John was the fourth bass player to play in the band, so he wasn’t there at the first concert. Compared to the others, Deacon has a reduced presence in the film, interpreted by some as a sort of revenge of May and Taylor against him: unlike them, John Deacon has always candidly admitted that for him Queen died together with Freddie Mercury, and this was one of the reasons he definitively abandoned the world of music in 1997.

Ray Foster

What happens in the film.

Among the highlights of the film is the meeting between the singers and Ray Foster, an executive with record company EMI, who doesn’t approve of Bohemian Rhapsody because it is too long to be played on the radio. Foster is played by an unrecognizable Mike Myers, who, coincidentally, in “Fusi di testa” is obsessed by Bohemian Rhapsody. The Canadian actor alludes to the cult scene of that movie when he tells Freddie that “nobody will headbang in the car listening to this stuff.”

What really happened.

The character is a mix of several real music executives who did not always agree with the band (but none of them went so far as to break off their association with the group). It is true that the length of Bohemian Rhapsody was its biggest obstacle and it is also true that some radio stations actually refused to play it, in the beginning. They then had to think again, given the huge success of the stations that did agree to transmit it.

Conflitti fittizi e il Live Aid

What happens in the film?

A series of conflicts, within and outside the band, are depicted. The machinations of Paul Prenter lead to the dismissal of manager John Reid and the subsequent breakup of the band, when Freddie signs a contract as a soloist. Furthermore, Bohemian Rhapsody shows how the band got back together after the first breakup at the Live Aid concert.

What really happened.

All these conflicts are complete inventions, designed, perhaps, to add excitement to the story. Whilst it is true that the band often had fights, sometimes furious ones, because the band members all had strong personalities, they never went so far as to break up the band. The group never officially disbanded, although they did take a period of time out when the members each went their own way. In fact, after this spell of individual work, agreed between the various members, Queen got back together to record and promote their album The Works, and the last concert of their international tour, in Japan, took place just two months before Live Aid. And again, contrary to what was shown in the film,  Live Aid  was absolutely not short of donations before Queen went on stage.

It is true that their performance is generally considered the high point of the concert. However, given the stature of the other participants (including Sting, Phil Collins and U2, if we consider only the London portion) it is hard to credit that people were reluctant to donate before Freddie came on the scene. As for Prenter, he was not fired for failing to advise Freddie of the invitation to play Live Aid, but for other reasons, a whole year after the concert. However, it is true that he was a negative influence, and it is also true that, after his dismissal, he spoke to the press about Freddie’s private life (not on television, however, but in the pages of a British tabloid). Reid, on the other hand, left of his own volition, without any hard feelings, in 1977.

Freddie’s private life: Jim Hutton, sexuality and Freddie’s illness

What happens in the film?

In Bohemian Rhapsody, Freddie Mercury tells colleagues and friends that he has AIDS just before a concert. On the same occasion, he tells his parents about his homosexuality and introduces his new partner, Jim Hutton.

What really happened.

The coming out story is a total invention. Freddie never spoke openly about his sexual preferences (except for one time, faithfully reproduced on the screen, during a private conversation with Mary, to whom he said he was bisexual). In the eyes of the singer’s family, Hutton was actually Mercury’s gardener. As for the HIV diagnosis, this took place about two years after Live Aid. The relationship between Freddie and Hutton (who didn’t meet at a party organized by Freddie, but in a gay club) is portrayed as a very minor affair. In reality, this is Freddie’s most important relationship. The two remained together until the end of the singer’s life.

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