Actors Speak Out About ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’

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Rami Malek, Joseph Mazzello and Gwilym Lee

“Bohemian Rhapsody,” the long-anticipated film about Freddie Mercury and Queen, opens nationwide in theaters this weekend. SFGN had the opportunity to sit down with three of the film’s stars, Rami Malek (Freddie Mercury), Joseph Mazzello (John Deacon) and Gwilym Lee (Brian May), to talk about the band, the film and yes, even those outrageous glam rock costumes:

SFGN: You’re all young guys. What did you think about Queen and their music before you signed on for the film?

RM: You can say that [we’re young], but I grew up and loved Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan and was introduced to them by people in my life. Just because of our age, you don’t necessarily need to grow up listening to whatever is on the charts at the moment. We were definitely aware of Queen. Queen is a supergroup and the fact that they were able to do so well over two decades — and even to this day — says a lot.

JM: When I was very young, I grew up with Nirvana and that whole [grunge] scene that took itself so seriously and was very, very “bad.” When I would listen to Queen, they seemed like they’re fun and purposely silly and something I didn’t have to take seriously. When I got to college, I realized these guys were geniuses, virtuosos. Their music crossed every genre. They’re four songwriters who have their own influences and, when they come together, it works in some crazy way. How lucky to then go from that journey to then play one of these guys and play the songs and learn everything about them. It was an awesome, awesome journey to this point.

GL: That’s true, isn’t it? They have such an irreverence and joy for life and the whole glam thing, the costumes and the outsized personas. As a moody teenager, you react against it. But their style took such imagination and that’s what is such a great privilege with this film, to imagine what that journey must have been like for these incredibly talented musicians.

SFGN: The costumes were certainly over the top…and those wigs!

JM: It was nice of you, Rami, to lend all your clothes for the movie.

GL: All that stuff is a helpful part of the process. When you’re wearing satin flares and high heel shoes, you have to rise to the level of those outfits. You can’t be shy and diminutive in those clothes. You have to raise your game.

RM: I agree. I used that time in the fittings almost as rehearsal. That’s what Freddie would have done. He would have said, “I prefer the white satin pants over the black ones. These enhance the way my butt looks. I have long legs, I want to show off legs. I can do a ballet twirl in a ballet leotard or a unitard. Why don’t we put sequins on it?” Almost as if by osmosis, I started to appreciate the same things he would have.

SFGN: How do you prepare for roles based on living people who are going to be watching the film?

JM: You prepare intensely is the answer…being from New York, you start with this particular accent. YouTube has a wealth of information, actually. You can actually find a John Deacon cam that follows him through each concert. In some ways, that’s a challenge in itself to be true to the man you’re playing, but still take some liberties to fill in the gaps that you don’t know.

GL: So many of the answers are there for you. Everyone knows how he looks and talks and holds himself, but our job as actors is to find the emotional side of it and tell that personal story. Brian [May] was very present for us all on set, especially the live musical performances, but when it came to the private, emotional scenes, he left it to us to tell that personal story.

SFGN: In terms of Freddie as a flamboyant gay man who ultimately died of AIDS, what insights did you gain about him while working on the film?

RM: I will say this — In order to find a way into a human being who is the closest thing that a lot of people can get to being God-like, you have to find the humanity in him. I looked at a young man whose name was not Freddie Mercury, but Farrokh Bulsara. A young man who was called “Bucky” as a kid because of his teeth. A young man who was struggling to discover his identity — not only as an immigrant child — but his sexual identity, as well. All of those things seemed to manifest themselves in an electric explosion on stage where all that conflict ceases to exist and becomes something magical. It’s the most liberating place he can be, on stage where nothing matters but him being his best self. That was where sexuality didn’t come to play…He was revolutionary in the way he let his essence speak for itself and that was all that mattered and all he wanted from anybody else.

“Bohemian Rhapsody” opens in theaters nationwide on Friday, Nov. 2. Check local listings for theaters and show times. For more information, go to FoxMovies.com/Movies/Bohemian-Rhapsody.