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BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY

About The Production
Producer Graham King was persuaded to buy the rights to the story of Freddie Mercury and the band Queen by award-winning writer Peter Morgan. I was shooting the film Hugo, and Peter called me and asked me if I liked the band Queen,' he recalls. "I said, yes, I love Queen! And he told me he was writing this script on spec and that no one had the rights to their story and that I should think about getting involved."

King knew something about Freddie's life from having grown up in London in the 1970s and 1980s and after a long phone conversation with Jim Beach, Queen's lawyer, King was introduced to Queen founders, guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor, and the deal was sealed. ''

As King expected, May and Taylor were apprehensive at first about the project, but King's track record as the man who produced award-winning films about such notable figures as Howard Hughes with The Aviator and Muhammad Ali with Ali, as well as former CIA officer Tony Mendez with Argo, went a good way to assuage their anxieties. "I come from an area of big Hollywood films, and I thought the story deserved to be told on that level," says King. "The film is a celebration of the music as well as carrying on the legacy of Queen and Freddie and showing a whole new generation who Freddie was--his background in Zanzibar, his coming to London as an immigrant, the prejudice he dealt with growing up, his shyness and insecurities about his looks, how he battled on so many different fronts, his brilliance as a songwriter and musician, how he found another family in the band, his reinvention as a larger-than-life performer, while always remaining someone everyone loved who could get away with some very outrageous behavior--all framed by the creation of a sound that was innovative and groundbreaking for the time. The period from 1970 to1985 felt like the most important part of Freddie's and the band's life story, and it ends with the triumph of Live Aid."

May and Taylor were part of the team throughout the entire creative process, just as King wanted it, and their involvement ensured the film remained true to history. "The film is telling their life stories, and no one knows it better than them," he says. "You can read as many books and magazine articles and watch as many videos and interviews, but when you can actually sit with the guys who can take you through the history, who can tell you anecdotes about Freddie that you'd never find out today, that meant the world to me. We all felt that we shouldn't make the film unless everything was right--story, cast--everything else had to fall into place. The bottom line for me is for everyone involved to be proud of the storytelling, to be proud of a movie about their life stories that's going to be shown around the world."

The project went through several incarnations until it finally reached the screen, and May and Taylor were impressed by King's tenacity and commitment. "Graham King is a wonderful producer who has been with us all along the way," says May. "There were moments when Roger and I thought it was never going to happen. So the fact that Graham has managed to pull it together with such a great team and cast is very exciting."

It's not surprising that Freddie Mercury still holds a special place in Brian May's heart. "There's too many memories of Freddie," he recalls fondly. "I remember that wicked smile and sparkle in his eye. And he would say something totally inappropriate and wicked. But he was just funny and nice, and he didn't have a bad bone in his body. He did have quite a quick temper, though, and he would react, but underneath that he was very shy, and if there was a confrontation, he would deal with it, and then he didn't want to know. I remember the great warmth Freddy had and how he wouldn't waste any time on anything. He was always focused, he always knew what he wanted to get out of a situation. And that's a good lesson to learn rather than trying to please everybody else in a particular situation."

King is also proud that the film succeeds in showing how the music came together. "How does a band create their music? That's a really difficult thing to show on screen," he says. "The audience is going to really enjoy seeing that. It's not just Freddie's story, it's also the story of how they created the sound. How did they invent 'Bohemian Rhapsody,' which was completely panned when it came out?"

One of the scenes that May was particularly pleased to see included was the band's first appearance on legendary BBC-TV program Top of the Pops in 1974 featuring "Killer Queen," which propelled the band to international stardom, despite or perhaps because of Freddie's outrageously suggestive performance and even more suggestive skintight outfit.

"Another band cancelled at the last minute, and we were suddenly in," says May. "But it was very strange for us because BBC policy then was that nobody played live, you played to track, and the singer lip-synced. It never felt comfortable for us because we were very much a live act. But it made us decide to make the video for 'Bohemian Rhapsody,' because we knew we would look ridiculous standing on the stage miming to that. Because the track got to number one and stayed there for six weeks, Top of the Pops played the video for six weeks. We didn't realize that it was going to go all around the world and have the same effect. In Australia for example, where we hadn't made much of a mark, it was enormous. That video really turned us into stars."

The film begins and ends with Queen's iconic Live Aid performance. Live Aid was one of the most important cultural events of the 1980s, bringing together the world's biggest superstars in a benefit concert on two stages, Wembley Stadium in London and the John F Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia, on July 13, 1985. Organized by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure to raise funds for those affected by the famine in Ethiopia, the concert was one of the largest satellite link-ups and TV broadcasts of all time, watched by an audience totaling 1.9 billion in 150 countries around the world.

The decision to bookend the story with that incredible live performance made perfect sense to King and the team. The concert came at a pivotal moment as it brought the band back together after Mercury's move to Germany, where he recorded two solo albums. It also came at a time when Mercury was at his lowest ebb, under the influence of Paul Prenter, surrounded by hangers-on who were exploiting Mercury's generosity, and falling dangerously into a spiral of drug and alcohol abuse.

Queen's performance was a shot in the arm for the Live Aid organizers. "People were watching in the UK, but they weren't calling in to pledge money, which was what the whole concert was about," says King. "Freddie came on and did a set that the band had rehearsed for three weeks, so it was a perfect 20-minute set, and he brought everyone together. He made them realize what the event was all about."

King believes Mercury's multi-cultural background went some way to explaining why this happened. "I think Freddie was somebody who brought people together, no matter your race, your sexuality, your nationality; people joined together when Freddie came on stage. It was a moment that gave you the chills. When Freddie told people to phone in, people listened and started phoning in. Queen got the largest single donation, around £1million, which in those days was huge!"

Everyone has their own personal memories of the day, but it had a special significance for those who performed there, especially Brian May. "I can remember the rush, everything's fast and it's exciting," he recalls. "Because it was a one-off and kind of terrifying in a very nice way. Like every gig, there was that great relief coming off the stage. You're just glad nothing terrible happened, there were no train wrecks, and you've kind of acquitted yourself well. It was a great feeling, and I remember Bob Geldof was very pleased. It's a great memory because everyone brushed their egos aside and supported and encouraged each other."

CASTING THE FILM

Finding the right actors to take on the roles was a daunting experience, particularly when it came to casting Freddie Mercury. The role is challenging. Not only did the actor have to be able to convey Mercury's emotional complexity, but, given the film's many recreations of Queen's live performances, he also had to understand about movement and dance, which were so important to Mercury's stage persona.

Graham King describes the emotional journey Mercury went through during his life: "Freddie was a guy who didn't stand for anything. He was a fighter. It wasn't easy being an immigrant in the UK in those days. He didn't become a star immediately, he wasn't an overnight success. He became one by fighting, by not accepting 'no,' by not being negative and by always fighting back from the knocks with something bigger and better. That's what Queen managed to do so well in their music. Every time you thought you'd heard the best of Queen, a song would come along and blow your mind."

Rami Malek, the Emmy-winning, Los Angeles-born star of TV's Mr. Robot, was the actor who King and the filmmakers chose to step into Mercury's shoes. Malek loved the music and was thrilled about having the chance to find out more about this musical icon. "I knew that Queen was massive and Freddie Mercury was an icon and a hero to so many," says Malek. "But I don't think I completely understood just how important he is to so many people across the world. Queen's fan base is massive. I was always a fan of Queen and Freddie Mercury, but it was only when I started researching the band that I realized they began in the 1970s, when they all had long hair and black fingernails and wore outrageous outfits. I think most people identify Freddie as this crop-haired, mustachioed, tank top wearing, muscular man who had a ton of bravado and machismo. It was astonishing to get to know the many versions and the very sweet side of him as well."

Malek's initial trepidation over taking on such an iconic role soon subsided.

"When you set out to play Freddie Mercury, you think, how am I ever going to fill those shoes?" he says. "I just attacked it as I would any other role. So I stripped out his achievements in terms of his performing--his ability to rule the stage, his singing, his piano playing--and found a very complicated man at the center, who was trying to discover his identity. That was something I knew how to tackle. If I could start there I would be able to have the initial building blocks that get you the confidence to do all those other things.

"One thing about Freddie Mercury that's absolutely undeniable is his magnetism," continues Malek. "When he was on stage, holding that half mic, or sitting at the piano, he feels capable of anything. What was magical about him was the exchange with everyone in the audience where everyone was allowed to feel the same thing--he could reach you as if you're the only person in the room--and it's that exchange that makes him one of the most unique and remarkable and revolutionary artists of our time or any time."

Graham King concurs: "No one could command an audience like Freddie could. He knew how to play to the guy in the back of the stadium. He thought about the outcasts. He thought about people getting bullied in the world. He thought about the guy that can't afford to be here. And he gave what he got from his roots. I don't think he ever lost the roots of where Freddie Mercury came from and what it meant to him. And I think the songs he created was a part of Freddie's persona that 'yes, I might be the singer, but we can all sing along. We can all love each other. We can all try and find a place to get along in this world.' And I think that meant so much to him."

For Malek, one of the biggest themes of the film is the sense of family and how family protects and cherishes. When Paul Prenter is hired as an assistant to the band's manager John Reid, the band, Mercury's de facto family, is torn apart. Prenter inveigles himself into Mercury's confidence and encourages him to indulge his hedonism. He also convinces Mercury to leave the band and strike out on his own in Germany. "The band sees Paul as being cunning and conniving," says Malek. "He leads Freddie down a path that became very dark-- the parties, the clubs, the drugs, the alcohol. It takes a visit from Mary Austin, the person closest to him, for him to realize that the people he knows in Munich aren't real family and don't have his interests at heart. It's his realization that he's lost a part of himself and that he's lost the band that is ultimately his moment of reckoning. He realizes how much he depends on these other guys in this band and on her. "

Malek was very grateful that Brian May and Roger Taylor were so involved in the film. "Having Brian and Roger involved was crucial," he says. "No one knows their story and this band more than the two of them, so their insight was invaluable. It was also a terrific boost to our confidence just having them there cheering us on. Knowing that they were there and watching raised our game. It's very difficult putting your story in the hands of strangers, but we really got to know them, and there was this trust level where we did not want to let them down."

When it came to preparing for the live concert scenes, Malek took an unusual approach. "I knew I was going to have to sing, to do a British accent, to move all over the stage, and I knew I needed a movement coach," he says. "I met Polly Bennett, and we immediately hit it off."

As movement coach, Bennett helped the actor identify and interpret how Freddie Mercury moved. "Movement isn't just the performance," explains Bennett. "It's everything the character is and has ever been."

Bennett began by looking into Freddie Mercury's heritage, specifically what she dubs his movement heritage, where his every memory of how a song was performed would influence the way he performed it himself. "Rami and I went through that process with all of the songs to think about what happened to Freddie before a particular moment, meaning his physicality would be a certain way. We traced all the events that happened to him from the 1950s to 1985 when the film ends to see how they would impact on his physicality."

Bennett cites Freddie's being a boxer, golfer and long-distance runner during his childhood as affecting his movement later in life. "You can see the punches in his performances, you can see how he lifts up his knees when he runs and how he sometimes uses the microphone as a golf club. These are all evidence of his physical muscle memory. In addition, he was brought up in Zanzibar with its specific culture, and this shows in his use of embellishment and colors in his clothes. We also noticed the little tricks he did to cover his teeth, especially in the early years, and how he loses that as he gets older and more confident, singing with a much wider mouth and smiling on stage."

Their research also highlighted Freddie's love of Liza Minnelli and the film Cabaret, his interest in the work of the film's director/choreographer Bob Fosse and his admiration for opera and its glamorous divas as well as his contemporaries Mick Jagger and David Bowie. "Rami and I worked on giving a little bit of a Bowie shape here or a Liza Minnelli hand movement there in his performances in the early '70s which then disappeared as he started to embrace his homosexuality. You have to remember that homosexuality was only decriminalized when he was 20, and it would have had a huge effect on his sense of space and his attitude with other people. But as he writes more songs and becomes famous, he becomes bolder."

The Live Aid scenes presented their own challenges for Bennett, especially because they came right at the start of the shoot. "Freddie performed in front of that huge audience," she recalls, "so I had to get Rami to a place where he could be nimble and agile and in the moment. We started working on 'Radio Ga Ga,' and he had everything down in about three hours--every eye look, every turn, every flick of the microphone. From there, he picked it up very quickly, and it became completely fluid and organic and spontaneous, so he filled the stadium and addressed everyone in it. The real challenge for him was finding the stamina to carry on."

One of the most fun scenes for Bennett was the "Killer Queen" performance on Top of the Pops. "Freddie is very flamboyant there," she says. "It's fur coats, nail varnish, rings, adornments and long hair. He's quite thin and wily and has an elegance of poise and posing. Rami is completely opposite to that, so he really enjoyed exploring that arena. Freddie also didn't have the pressure of singing it live because it was mimed to a playback, so he can overact."

The collaboration with Bennett proved indispensable to Malek. As the actor explains: "We didn't want an impersonation of Freddie, but rather to understand why he did what he did. So looking at all those performers and films and choreographers who influenced him was incredibly useful in getting to the heart of how he moved and performed."

The culmination of their hard work was the Live Aid scenes. "Stepping out onto that stage for the Live Aid scenes was the most remarkable feeling," says Malek. "Even though there wasn't an audience there, it was completely nerve-wracking. But also invigorating. I mean, they had recreated that stage perfectly, so you got the feeling that it's the real deal."

Says Graham King: "We didn't want an impersonation of Freddie. We wanted Rami to bring something of his own to it, but we also wanted to keep the Freddie movements that are so iconic. Polly had a great blend of that. She did it so well. She and Rami worked so hard together in creating the character. Rami has done an incredible job. I'd seen Mr. Robot, so I knew he could deliver, but the pressure to play such an iconic figure was still very high. We're talking about a band that has millions of fans out there that have been anticipating this film. Can we please the Queen fans, the diehard Queen fans? Rami's unbelievable. I can proudly say it's one of the best performances I've seen for a very, very long time."

Aidan Gillen, who plays John Reid, also only has praise for Rami Malek. "What Rami did was something extraordinary," he says. "It's a detailed, passionate, risky, uncanny performance."

"Rami is extraordinary," concurs Gwilym Lee who plays Brian May. "He's in pretty much every scene of the film, and he worked so hard. Freddie was loved by millions, and there is a weight of responsibility that comes with that. Rami really embodied his passion and his energy, and he found a real tenderness and humanity to this character that I don't think many people know. For the concert scenes, Rami had to learn everything Freddie did and then forget it to make it come across as though it's spontaneous and in-the-moment, and he's done it brilliantly."

Casting director Susie Figgis brought together the rest of the cast. Says Graham King: "We didn't want big names, we wanted great actors who could transform themselves. If the audience doesn't buy into the characters in the first 20 minutes, you've lost them. That was the challenge." Jim Beach adds, "Susie did an incredible job and it's fitting for us though sad for the industry that she decided that Bohemian Rhapsody would be her last film."

Lucy Boynton, who most recently appeared in the films Sing Street and Murder on the Orient Express, plays Mary Austin, the love of Freddie's life who remained a true friend even after their romantic relationship ended.

"I think Mary immediately sees something in Freddie that's slightly different from all the other guys she knows," says Boynton. "There's a light that emanates from him, and there's a moment where she catches him looking at himself in the mirror. It's a really beautiful moment, as we see a person trying to assess themselves, trying on all different 'selves'. That's what draws Mary in, and when they play with the makeup and the scarves, she recognizes what a chameleon he is. That's the most exciting thing to her."

For Malek, Mary was "the closest person to Freddie in his life. She was someone he could implicitly trust and rely on. There was a love and a bond between them that was unmistakable and undeniable. He referred to her as his common law wife. Mary allowed him the confidence and the courage to be exactly who he knew he could be. And that's what true friends do. I think they allow you to feel confident in your own skin, to find that confidence and to share it with others."

It was the script that drew Boynton to the film. "I really loved it, and it surprised me because it was very much a celebration of Queen and everything that they created and a celebration of Freddie," she says. "You can tell that it was written by people who really love him. It was a really beautiful exploration into his beautiful existence."

Boynton was seduced also by the relationship between Freddie and Mary. "The dynamic that they had throughout their entire lives really spoke to me," she says. "Although it starts as a romantic relationship, it is something so much deeper and so important to both of them. She was his closest ally and he hers until the very end of his life. Conveying their mutual understanding was the most important thing for me--that very pure and clear way they saw each other, especially at a time which was more judgmental than now. Freddie really broke out of the box he was put into, and to see how they accepted each other in the purest form was really beautiful."

Boynton also responded to the underlying spirit of the film. "Graham King wants it to be the celebration of the band and the brilliant work they created, and it's not a kiss-and-tell. To be led by someone with such great intentions and such passion and excitement is so exciting."

Of course, just like the rest of the cast, the biggest challenge came in bringing a real person to life. "It's a huge pressure to play someone who's still alive and will have an opinion on this film and the way that I play her--especially in the scenes between Freddie and Mary in the film," says Boynton. "It really does go into some of their most intimate moments, and so my first response was wanting to protect her and not pretend to think I know how it actually felt to be there, so I can only give my own interpretation. I never at any point want to speak for her. While with Freddie, they're trying to replicate his costumes and looks, we've moved away from a completely accurate portrayal of Mary, so that there's a layer of protection for her."

Malek is generous in his praise for Boynton. He says, "Mary was the person Freddie could trust wholeheartedly, the person who reassured him and gave him the advice and confidence he needed and allows him to discover his sense of self. And she said what she needed to say in the moment it was needed. She really is the heart of this movie, and she is what keeps everything together. So the confidence of Lucy Boynton and her ability to play that part of Mary Austin is something that I don't think the film could have done without."

The band members - Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon - are brought to life by Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy and Joe Mazzello, respectively.

For Lee, most recently seen on the British television series Jamestown and Midsomer Murders, the part of Queen guitarist May was impossible to turn down. "It's a real pleasure to play such an iconic character in a band that is loved by so many people," says Lee. "I also loved that the film tells a very human story where these iconic rock gods are portrayed as real individuals. They were grafters, and it was a real struggle in the UK where they didn't have any kind of popular success. They went on tour to Japan, and they landed in Japan to absolute mayhem. There was completely adoration, but when they get home, there's nothing.

"The band was like a family, and they all needed each other," continues Lee. "Brian had some difficulties with his father. He was a really high-achieving academic who was doing a PhD in astrophysics and called it off to be in a band, and his dad really didn't approve. It was only until they went to Madison Square Garden in the mid-70s that Brian's father, who Brian flew in on the Concorde and put up in a five-star hotel, finally understood."

Lee was determined not to reduce his performance to an impersonation. "I wanted to try and find what makes Brian tick," he explains. "One of the problems I found is that a lot of the material of Brian May and the band are interviews, and in an interview, you present a side of yourself that you want the world to see and which isn't completely authentic. So I was trying to look beyond all the footage to work out what makes Brian angry or sad and how he behaves in those moments, because that's when you see the real person. I was very privileged in meeting the man early on while we were still rehearsing. He came straight up to me and gave me a big hug. He was thoroughly excited and passionate and supportive, and he's never shown anything less than that throughout. Even on the day where we did the scene where I recorded the solo for 'Bohemian Rhapsody', a time which could've been terrifying, I felt safe in his presence."

Lee used rehearsals to both learn how to get inside the character and to forge an authentic relationship with his co-stars. "The musical challenge is to try and learn all those songs, but also you have to try and present a band that have been together for years, that know each other inside out, that have a bond and a connection. We rehearsed meticulously with movement director Polly Bennett. Having that choreography was a real safety net, so when it came to the first scene we filmed, the Live Aid concert which was an incredibly full on experience, it became a real galvanizing moment. It was a really exciting way to just jump in at the deep end and bond together."

Ben Hardy (BBC-TV's The Woman in White, Only the Brave) plays drummer Roger Taylor, who served as consultant on the film alongside Brian May. Hardy recalls how he got the role: "It was a very daunting task to play Roger Taylor, as he is a fantastic drummer, and I haven't drummed a day in my life. Which I wasn't completely honest about when I auditioned for the part! I said I could drum, and the director said, 'Okay, great, could you put together a video of this track?' And I was like, 'You know, yeah, sure, of course'. And I went home, bought the cheapest drum kit I could find and just had lessons every day for a couple of weeks. I put together a tape to show to casting. And luckily it was good enough. Then the real work started--10 hours of intensive drumming every day with instructor Brett Morgan. It was a crash course in drumming."

Hardy concentrated mostly on coming to grips with Taylor's muscular drumming style. "Roger has a few tricks that give his drumming a real showmanship," explains the actor. "He likes to spin his stick; he just does one turn. And he always does a rim shot on the snare which is when you connect the rim of the snare and the skin to create a really big sound. He's very theatrical with his playing, even the rim shot has a whipping motion. And he also accents the back beat by splashing the high hat. He also pours beer on his floor tom so when he hits it, the beer shoots up really high. I tried to use all that, and it really helped inform my portrayal of Roger. I got covered in beer after numerous takes, but it was really good fun."

One of the biggest challenges for Hardy was playing a real person who is still alive, something he has never done before. He readily admits that it took him a while to realize that he wasn't required to impersonate Taylor but rather, "give an essence of Roger, and the strongest essence I can, whilst also being true to the text and serving the purposes of this film. Once I had grasped that, I felt a lot more comfortable.

"I was very nervous about meeting Roger," continues Hardy. "I'd been watching video footage of him for weeks and weeks and weeks, and it felt like I was almost stalking him! On our first meeting I was worried about how he would feel about me playing him, but he was very supportive and just embraced the situation, because he understands that there has to be artistic license when making a film about real life events. He even gave me a mini drum lesson which was definitely the peak of my nerves. When he said, 'Go on. Sit down, and show me what you can do,' I was terrified! But he was very helpful and really taught me a lot." The fourth member of the band, bass guitarist John "Deacy" Deacon, is played by Joe Mazzello, the American actor best known for Jurassic Park and the HBO series The Pacific.

"I describe John as the accidental rock star," says Mazzello. "This just happened to him, whereas I think the other guys grew up wanting to be famous musicians. John was perfectly content just working in electronics and fixing televisions. He loved playing music and had a knack for it, but he did it for fun. He also had a knack for songwriting, but he never believed that it could be something that he could do for the rest of his life. But it just snowballed, and before he knew it they were touring America and Japan. He was also the youngest and the last to join the band, so I think it took him a little while to find himself. He's more introverted, but he's also a little bit of a goofball. But ultimately as the band got more success, and he started writing many of their big hits, he became a pretty integral part of the band."

It was the emotional drama of the screenplay that Mazzello found compelling. "I thought it was a beautiful and really moving story about the journey all four members of Queen went through," he says. "I found John Deacon so interesting. He's a little bit of an enigma. He plays the part of referee when the three others argue and settles everything with a quick word. He's the king of the one-liner. Portraying his character, learning how to play an instrument, learning a Midlands accent which I'd never heard before, all this presented a really fun challenge, and I really wanted to be a part of it."

To prepare for the part, Mazzello scoured the internet for videos of the band. "I found every interview John ever did, any live footage of him playing, any behind the scenes footage, every documentary," he says. "I watched it all just to get a sense of who he was, how he fitted in, how he felt about himself in the context of the band and how he changed over time. Those are what I call the macro elements. And it's important to stay very faithful to those. But we were making a movie, and there's a 99% chance that the lines we're saying are not true to life. However, as long as you can make the words that you say and scenes that you play--what I call the micro elements-- fit those macro elements, that's the way in to playing a character who is alive and is well-known and who people are going to have strong opinions about."

Mazzello had fun brushing up his guitar skills for the film. He had learned to play guitar a decade or so ago and had to familiarize himself with the bass. "The right hand was more difficult because it involves a lot of finger picking," he explains. "You hold the bass differently, and you don't typically have a pick. The bass is the bridge between the percussions and the guitars, so you're often playing the harmonies rather than the main melody and coming in at odd points. So you have to think about music differently. I had six weeks of rehearsal time and spent that time learning how to play the 25 or so songs, even though I don't really read music."

Mazzello was keen to get it exactly right, aware of how much scrutiny his performance would get from the audience. "We know that a lot of the people watching this are going to be Queen fanatics," he says. "I can't tell you how many bassists have come up to me and asked me if I'm playing the songs. I knew I couldn't fake it. As an actor you want to be up there on the stage feeling like you're playing these songs. That was also what made it a challenge that I relished."

Rami Malek believes that the presence of Brian May and Roger Taylor helped his co-stars enormously. "Having Brian and Roger around allowed everyone to understand them. So Gwilym and Ben did such a great job of capturing their essence as well."

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."

Irish actor Aidan Gillen, best known for his role as Game of Throne's "Petyr 'Littlefinger' Baelish," plays John Reid, Queen's first manager. For Gillen, Queen and Freddie Mercury hold a unique and important position in cultural history.

"Freddie didn't look like a traditional pop star," he says. "And yet he became a great performer and a huge sex symbol. He was a misfit who found a way to become a global superstar. He confused people. Women thought he was gorgeous and sexy; men thought he was cool. Queen is so popular, but they were never really fashionable. They were always a little bit out of time and out of fashion, which is why they've remained so popular. That, and because the songs are fantastic and quite cutting-edge, using multiple overdubs on vocals and complex, unexpected chord progressions which were unusual for the time."

Allen Leech, beloved by Downton Abbey fans for his portrayal of "Tom Branson," plays Freddie Mercury's personal manager Paul Prenter, who crept into Freddie's affections and then betrayed him in the most heinous way.

Knowing little about Paul Prenter, Leech dived into researching the character.

"Paul Prenter was quite a malevolent force in Freddie's life," says Leech. "The more research I did, the more I realized there were very legitimate reasons for the rest of the band having issues with him. However, you always have to be careful because you're playing a real person and make sure the subtleties aren't taken away in the filmmaking process because you don't want your character to be two-dimensional. There are reasons why Paul is the person he is. You try and find a balance between respecting the story and respecting the person.

"Paul was brought in because the band wanted a personal assistant, and he struck up a relationship with Freddie mainly because they were both gay," continues Leech. "At the time Freddie wasn't out, and Paul gave him an ability to see what the world was like, what the gay scene was like. He was a confidante and then moved from being the band's assistant to Freddie's personal manager. Their relationship became toxic when Paul took Freddie away from the band, suggested he go solo and then got rid of John Reid in a very sly way."

For Leech, two scenes are pivotal to Freddie and Paul's relationship. The first at Rockfield Farm Studios when the band is recording the "Bohemian Rhapsody" album and Paul kisses Freddie, and they realize there's an understanding between them. The second is in Munich, when Freddie sees the truth and, in the driving rain, banishes Paul from his life. "Freddie realizes that Paul was never really there for him, Paul was there for himself. When Freddie says, 'you're out, you're gone,' it feels like a breakup scene rather than someone getting fired. It was really lovely to do that."

Rounding out the cast are BAFTA-winner Tom Hollander (The Night Manager) as Jim "Miami" Beach, who began as the band's lawyer and went on to become its manager; and Aaron McCusker (Shameless) as Jim Hutton, Freddie's boyfriend for the last seven years of his life.

Graham King was bowled over by the caliber of the supporting cast: "Gwilym Lee spoke his first words to us in the audition as Brian May, and we were won over. Ben Hardy has a personality that was very similar to Roger in a lot of ways. Joe Mazzello is from New York, but he's got a lot of John Deacon in him. Tom Hollander playing Jim Beach is phenomenal. Roger Taylor, Brian May and Jim Beach were bowled over by how convincing Allen Leech is as Paul Prenter. He's the character who is going to get booed by the audience, but Allen manages to bring a sensitivity to the role that makes his behavior understandable. And Lucy Boynton is perfect as Mary; you can feel the chemistry between her and Rami."

King had been discussing the project for quite a while with his friend Mike Myers, who is an enormous Queen fan, and was thrilled when he came on board to play Ray Foster, the head of record label EMI. "Because of Wayne's World, it was perfect that he ended up being the one who is unimpressed when Freddie presents him with 'Bohemian Rhapsody' and tells him the song with never be one that "teenagers can crank up the volume and bang their heads to.' And it was Mike who decided to play him as a Northerner. He was fantastic!"

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