Freddie Mercury and “Bohemian Rhapsody” – the biographical film about the British rock band Queen, which follows Mercury’s life, until their Live Aid performance at Wembley Stadium in 1985.
Freddie Mercury ‘s real name was Farrokh Bulsara: he was born in the British protectorate of Zanzibar in 1946 into a Parsi family. The Bulsara family gets its name from Bulsar, a city and district that is now in the Indian state of Gujarat and in the 17th century was one of the five centres of the Zoroastrian religion. On his birth certificate, his parents listed their nationality as “British Indian” and under race they put “Parsi” (an ethnic group of Persian origin who have lived on the Indian Subcontinent for over a thousand years).
He grew up in Zanzibar and in India until his mid-teens. At the age of 17, the political unrest in Zanzibar put his family in danger: the country had gained independence from Britain and a bloody revolution had begun, causing the deaths of thousands of Indians and Arabs. The Bulsara family therefore fled to the United Kingdom. In London “Freddie”, as he wanted to be called, studied art and graphic design. Following graduation, he joined a series of bands and (in real life) sold second-hand clothes in Kensington Market in London with Mary Austin.
At the beginning of the biopic he is a baggage handler at Heathrow Airport, and offers to replace the singer of a local band who is going to leave them to pursue bigger opportunities. (In real life, he met his future bandmates in a less spontaneous way at the time he was attending Ealing Art College in London). While looking for the band, he meets Mary Austin and compliments her scarf, which she says is from the store she works at.
He has four extra teeth: his front teeth protruded, a feature that intensified his insecurity. (However, he didn’t want to have them removed because he feared that it would change the resonance of his voice, since he thought that the extra teeth stretched his palate and helped give him his sound.)
A year later, the band is performing all over the country, and Freddie has become Mary’s boyfriend. One day, when their van breaks down, he suggests selling it to get the money to record their first album. They also change the group’s name into “Queen” (The name was an obvious play on words: Queen is both a royal reference in a British context, and a slangy term for a male homosexual. When asked about it, Freddie explained, ” It’s just a name, but it’s very regal obviously, and it sounds splendid. It’s a strong name, very universal and immediate. It had a lot of visual potential and was open to all sorts of interpretations. I was certainly aware of gay connotations, but that was just one facet of it.”)
At about the same time, he decides to change his surname, switching it from “Bulsara” to “Mercury” (inspired by the line “Mother Mercury, look what they’ve done to me” in the song “My Fairy King”)
Freddie proposes to Mary, who accepts, but soon the band leaves on their U.S. tour, during which he starts questioning his sexuality.
When EMI record producer complains that their six-minute song “Bohemian Rhapsody” is too long to be released as a single as it risked being rejected by radio stations, Queen decide to leave both him and EMI.
Freddie takes the song to a famous Capital London radio DJ to play it for the very first time to the public and it soon becomes a hit.
Following a world tour, Freddie comes out to Mary and confesses that he is bisexual, even though she tells him that she knows he is gay. She is tired of all of Freddie’s excuses and starts to cry, and when Mercury professes his complex feelings of love for her saying: “I want you in my life,” she sadly replies. “Why?”.
Consequently, she breaks up with him and moves out of the flat they shared: Freddie remains alone with his cats (He loved cats and would even talk to them on the phone when he was away).
Nevertheless, they remain close friends through the years. (During a 1985 interview, Freddie said of Mary, “All my lovers asked me why they couldn’t replace Mary, but it’s simply impossible. The only friend I’ve got is Mary, and I don’t want anybody else. To me, she was my common-law wife. To me, it was a marriage. We believe in each other, that’s enough for me.” She was the one person he trusted most throughout his career.)
Then he begins an affair with Paul Prenter, his personal manager, who has a very bad influence on him.
During a luxurious party marked by excess at his home, Freddie meets Jim Hutton, a waiter at the party, and is attracted by him, but Hutton tells him to go and look for him only when he learns to like himself. (In reality Jim Hutton was not a servant at one of Mercury’s parties, but a hairdresser who first met Mercury at a nightclub in London in 1983. Mercury offered to buy him a drink but Hutton, who was out with his lover, refused.)
The band’s success continues but in the early 1980s crisis appears: the married Queen members no longer share Mercury’s tastes in fashion, partying, sexual partners, or even the direction of their music. Moreover, there are changes in Freddie’s attitude resulting from his relationship with Paul, who has been creating conflict between him and the rest of the band.
When Freddie confesses to the others that he signed a $4 million solo contract with CBS Records, the news upsets the others and Freddie leaves. (In real life they never split up, but, in 1983 Queen decided to take a break and focus on their solo careers but they remained in touch).
After that decision, Mercury works on his solo albums and engages in gay orgies with Paul.
He moves to Munich, to record an album, drug-addicted, separated by his real friends and exploited by his new ones.
One night, Mary, now pregnant, visits him and ….
(to be continued)