Queen’s performance at London’s Wembley Stadium in June 1985 is generally considered the groundbreaking rock group’s seminal set. While only limited to 20 minutes, like every other act during the star-studded benefit for famine relief in Africa, the electric Freddie Mercury-fronted outfit managed to outshine the likes of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Led Zeppelin, the Who, and more.
It’s no wonder then that the new Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody builds up to that momentous performance. And while 20 minutes is short for a band of Queen’s stature, it was an arduous undertaking for the four actors portraying the band’s original members Mercury (Rami Malek), Brian May (Gwilym Lee), John Deacon (Joseph Mazzello), and Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy), who played the set from start to finish and more. “We actually learned [the movements] beat for beat,” Mazzello told Yahoo Entertainment during a recent stop at our studios, where he was joined by Malek, Lee, co-star Lucy Boynton, and producer Graham King.
And they shot the whole sequence first, arriving in London five weeks before the start of production to do band rehearsals. “It was quite an intimidating way to start the film by starting with the Live Aid sequence,” Lee said. “It was about as intimidating as it gets. But actually it was brilliant because it forges you together.”
Lee and Hardy, especially, faced an elevated level of pressure, given that the current members they embodied, May and Taylor, are producers on the film and were often on set. Maybe too often.
May “really embraced it, to the point where he wanted to be there every day,” King said. “And I was trying to explain to him how uncomfortable that could be for the actor playing him… He was like, ‘Yeah, but I really want to support him.’
At other points, May fidgeted with Lee’s wig. “It sums the man up perfectly,” Lee said. “I remember doing the first run of Live Aid on set — just a rehearsal. And Brian May [pulled] me off to the side after and said, ‘Yeah, that’s very good. You’ve got the movements down. Now just remember that I’m a rock star. Give it a bit of that.”
Malek, though, had the trickiest choreography to master, given the late Mercury’s freewheeling, oft-gyrating dance style. The Mr. Robot star worked with a movement coach for months “just to figure out how he articulated himself. So I would do all of Freddie’s moves through Live Aid in rehearsal with her for quite a long time before we incorporated the rest of the band.”
The work, it turns out, followed him home. Or at least to the club. “Now when I’m out on the dance floor, it’s just all Freddie Mercury moves,” Malek laughed.
Bohemian Rhapsody opens Friday. Watch the cast talk about finishing the film without director Bryan Singer:
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