The new music biopic Bohemian Rhapsody (Nov. 2) tells the story of the rise of the iconic British rock band Queen, with a central focus on its larger-than-life frontman, Freddie Mercury. The film has thus far received mixed reviews, with much praise for Rami Malek’s performance as Mercury alongside criticism for the cinematic liberties it takes with Mercury’s life.
Here’s what’s fact and what’s fiction in Bohemian Rhapsody.
Were Freddie Mercury’s teeth as pronounced as Malek’s prosthetic teeth?
Malek said at the movie’s New York City premiere that he obtained the prosthetic teeth a year before filming so that he could get used to speaking and singing with them. Mercury’s teeth were indeed among his most defining traits, although they didn’t necessarily stand out in the way Malek’s false teeth occasionally do in the film. He was born with four extra upper teeth, which caused his front incisors to protrude forward. His personal assistant Peter Freestone said in an interview that Mercury’s teeth were a source of insecurity throughout his life, however he allegedly feared that corrective surgery would affect his singing abilities.
Did Queen record “Bohemian Rhapsody” at a countryside farmhouse?
The farmhouse recording studio where the band is shown composing the iconic operatics for the song “Bohemian Rhapsody” is known as Rockfield Studios. While the film positions the Rockfield as an unconventional and experimental recording destination, the former Welsh farmhouse was (and still is) considered a premiere studio.
Did Freddie Mercury love cats as ardently as the film depicts?
Yes, very much so. Mercury was the proud owner of several cats throughout his life. According to Freestone’s memoir, Mercury would speak to them on the phone while he was away from home.
Was Freddie Mercury’s sexuality accurately portrayed in the film?
One of the most important relationships in Mercury’s life was with Mary Austin (played by Lucy Boynton), whom he met before he rose to fame. In real life, Mercury and Austin lived together and were romantically involved — and at one point even engaged to be married — for several years in the 1970s. While their romance came to an end after Mercury began sleeping with men, the two maintained an incredibly close friendship throughout the remainder of Mercury’s life.
In the film, their relationship is presented with a bit more tension. As their romance begins to deteriorate on screen, Mercury tells Austin that he thinks he is bisexual, to which she responds, “No Freddie, you are gay.” While the movie from that point focuses on his sexual relationships with men, the reality was more complicated. According to Mercury and Me, a memoir by his partner Jim Hutton (portrayed by Aaron McCusker), Mercury continued to have sexual relationships with women and men after Austin.
Did Freddie Mercury meet future partner Jim Hutton at one of his own house parties?
No. In an interview he gave in 2006, Hutton said he and Mercury met at a gay bar in London. While it is true that they reunited after Hutton initially rejected Mercury years before, the scene in which Mercury vigilantly searches through the phone book to find Hutton before appearing on his doorstep is a bit of Hollywood flair. The truth, as Hutton stated, is that they simply reconnected years later, at another gay bar.
When was Freddie Mercury diagnosed with HIV?
The film positions the Live Aid concert in 1985 as not only its own climax but also the pivotal climax of Mercury’s career, with his health in decline following his diagnosis with HIV. In reality, Mercury wasn’t diagnosed with HIV until 1987, two years after the concert.
Did Mercury’s manager, Paul Prenter, really betray him?
While the movie does take some creative license with his characterization, Prenter (played by Allen Leech), who died in 1991, was pretty reviled by the other members of Queen. In the film, Prenter goes on TV after he is fired to expose Mercury’s private life. In reality, Prenter still worked for Mercury at the time of the Live Aid concert, and while he never exposed Mercury’s private life on air, he did do so in print. According to Hutton’s book, Prenter sold a story to the tabloid The Sun in 1987 with the headline, “AIDS Kills Freddie’s Two Lovers.” It was this story that finally led to Mercury fire Prenter.