Much of the early buzz around “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the long-gestating Queen biopic hitting theaters Friday, has focused on how much ― or how little ― of frontman Freddie Mercury’s sexuality the film would show.
The real-life Mercury was, by varying accounts, gay or bisexual. So when an early trailer for “Bohemian Rhapsody” hit the internet last spring, it was instantly criticized for appearing to “straight-wash” the rock icon. (More recent reviews of the film as a whole have offered similar views.)
Now Rami Malek, who plays Mercury in the film, is speaking out about those criticisms. In a USA Today interview published Tuesday, the actor said he “totally understands” those who feel more of Mercury’s sexuality should have been seen in the film.
“He had a beautiful relationship with Jim Hutton, and we had a finite period in which we wanted to tell this story,” he said. “Believe me: There were conversations left and right about how to incorporate more of that story into this film. It was something I pushed for, to be quite honest, as much as possible and repeatedly brought to the attention of producers and directors and everyone who would listen.”
I hope people do not feel that the film does a disservice to the community, and if it were me, I would’ve loved to have incorporated more. Rami Malek on the new Queen biopic
If “Bohemian Rhapsody” had been a miniseries, Malek believes there would’ve been more time to explore Mercury’s personal life. The movie, which features real-life Queen members Brian May and Roger Taylor as executive music producers, concludes with the band’s 1985 Live Aid performance. (Mercury died in 1991 at age 45, just one day after publicly revealing he was HIV positive.)
“Freddie Mercury is a gay icon, and he’s an icon for all of us,” Malek said. “I hope people do not feel that the film does a disservice to the community, and if it were me, I would’ve loved to have incorporated more.”
“Bohemian Rhapsody” experienced a fair amount of setbacks in its journey to the big screen. “Borat” star Sacha Baron Cohen had originally been slated to play Mercury, but left the project in 2013, citing creative differences. Last year, director Bryan Singer was fired from the film after production began due to “unexpected unavailability,” and replaced by Dexter Fletcher.
Though critics have praised Malek’s performance, they’ve been less kind to “Bohemian Rhapsody” as a whole. Variety called the movie a “rather fuddy-duddy old-school biopic,” while The New York Times said it feels “engineered to be as unmemorable as possible.”