Bohemian Rhapsody has converted a new generation of fans to the timeless music of Queen, one of the world’s most successful rock groups. The film tells the story of frontman Freddie Mercury and his journey from a shy immigrant working at Heathrow Airport to, arguably, the greatest showman the world has ever known.
The film received mixed reviews, with Rami Malek’s portrayal of the rock icon receiving the most praise. Despite being a major box office success, Bohemian Rhapsody contains a number of historical inaccuracies. Read on to find out what they got right about Queen and what they got wrong.
10 Got Right: Brian May And Roger Taylor Played Together Before Meeting Freddie Mercury
Bohemian Rhapsody shows us the first meeting between Freddie Mercury, Brian May, and Roger Taylor early on in the film. Mercury attends a gig where the band SMILE is playing and meets them minutes after their lead singer quits. Although some of the details were changed, it is true that Taylor and May played together in SMILE before they met Mercury.
In reality, the two musicians knew Mercury for a while before he actually joined the band. Bass player John Deacon was the last to join.
9 Got Wrong: The Timing Of Rock In Rio
The film portrays the huge Rock in Rio concert as the climax of Queen’s rise to fame and the end of Mercury’s life as a closeted man. The gig takes place in the mid to late 1970s, as we can tell by Mercury’s style. But the timing of the concert was wrong. It actually took place much later in January of 1985, long after Mercury had first adopted his signature mustache.
In real life, Mercury broke up with fiancé Mary Austin nearly 10 years before the Rock in Rio concert, while the film shows them still together at the time of the performance.
8 Got Right: “Bohemian Rhapsody” Was Freddie Mercury’s Masterpiece
In the movie, Mercury first comes up with ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ while working on A Night at the Opera. Although we first see him coming up with the piano introduction at his flat while in bed with Austin, he comes up with the rest of the song while staying at Ridge Farm and making the album with the band.
Bohemian Rhapsody is accurate in that Mercury was the one to pen this masterpiece, which is widely regarded as one of the best songs of all time. Mercury never explained what it is really about; the film shows him telling Ray Foster, “True poetry is for the listener.”
7 Got Wrong: The Recording Year Of “We Will Rock You”
Queen fans were delighted that so many of the band’s biggest hits made it to the movie, but the timing of some of them was a little off. Most notably, the film shows “We Will Rock You” being written and recorded in 1980, with Mercury having grown his famous mustache by the time Brian May comes up with the song.
“We Will Rock You” was actually recorded a few years earlier in 1977. It was released on the News of the World album. At the time, Mercury was still clean-shaven.
6 Got Right: The Bond Between Freddie Mercury And Jim Hutton
After being used and betrayed by Paul Prenter, the Freddie Mercury in the film finds a true companion and genuine lover in Jim Hutton. Again, the details aren’t all correct, but the film does accurately capture the way Mercury shared a close bond with Hutton.
The late Hutton’s memoir Mercury & Me details their life together, stating that they actually met at a gay club instead of at one of Mercury’s famous parties. The book also reveals that Hutton lived with Mercury at Garden Lodge and worked as his gardener. This is also how he was introduced to Mercury’s parents, Bomi and Jer Bulsara.
5 Got Wrong: Queen’s Relationship Leading Up To Live Aid
The iconic Queen performance at Live Aid is the highlight of the film. Naturally, a period of tension precedes this climax to make the story even more entertaining for audiences and shows Queen frantically trying to mend their broken relationship for the sake of the performance.
Queen was one of the best acts to play at Live Aid because they had actually just finished touring. By the time they hit that Wembley stage, they were pros at playing stadium shows and had been doing it for nearly 10 months.
4 Got Right: The Immense Impact Of Live Aid
The Live Aid performance in the film closely resembles the real performance that took place in July of 1985, with nearly every detail the same. In addition to nailing the performance itself and the ambiance of Wembley, the film also accurately captures the huge impact that Queen’s performance at Live Aid had on the audience.
Organizer Bob Geldof himself confirmed it, not bothering to sugar coat it for the other bands: “Queen were absolutely the best band of the day … They played the best, had the best sound, used their time to the full.”
3 Got Wrong: The Timeline Of Freddie Mercury’s Aids Diagnosis
The film shows Mercury’s HIV diagnosis but doesn’t show the final few years of the star’s life as he lived with the illness. His diagnosis comes just before the Live Aid performance and he tells the rest of the band during rehearsals the week prior.
According to Hutton’s book, Mercury didn’t learn that he was HIV-positive until 1987, nearly two years after the Live Aid performance. He also didn’t tell the other members of Queen about it during a rehearsal. But the film does accurately portray Mercury’s defiance of the illness and refusal to share it with the press and become an “AIDS poster boy.” Mercury didn’t publicly confirm he had the disease until the day before he passed away in 1991.
2 Got Right: Freddie Mercury’s Mannerisms
Some critics have commented that Rami Malek’s performance of the legendary rock star was too exaggerated. But if you compare real footage of Mercury with Malek’s portrayal, it seems the resemblance is uncanny. Malek got Mercury’s mannerisms totally right, from the rolling in of his lips to hide his teeth to calling everyone darling or dear.
Malek also nailed Mercury’s on-stage mannerisms, including the pirouette twirls and carrying the microphone stand around with him during his performance. Mercury also really did call himself a musical prostitute, although it was in an interview that took place in Munich in 1984.
1 Got Wrong: Freddie Mercury Leaving The Group To Go Solo
Part of the story arc of Malek’s Mercury is that he feels increasingly isolated from the rest of Queen until he decides to abandon the group and go solo. While, in reality, Mercury did release solo music, he didn’t “leave” the group behind to do it. In fact, Mercury was actually the third member of the band to take on solo projects.
His solo album Mr. Bad Guy was released just before Live Aid in 1985 and was a huge success. This part of his career didn’t mean he was turning his back on the band. They were all free to pursue their own music and continue on with Queen.
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