Rami Malek and co-stars talk Queen
Rami Malek, Gwilym Lee, and Joseph Mazzello walk red carpet for ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ Boston screening
Written by Anthony McCarten
Directed by Bryan Singer
Starring Rami Malek, Gwilym Lee, Joseph Mazzello, Ben Hardy, Lucy Boynton
Playing Nov. 2
Queen fans, rejoice. Non-Queen fans, also rejoice, for Freddie Mercury is brought into the spotlight once again, with his stage-strutting, charismatic charm. College students attended a free advance screening of Bohemian Rhapsody last Monday at AMC Loews Boston Common. Stars Rami Malek, Gwilym Lee, and Joseph Mazzello walked the red carpet and stayed for a Q&A session with the student audience. I had the fortune to interview them about their work in the upcoming film, coming out at the end of this month. Mercury biopic Bohemian Rhapsody hopes to bring a deeper context of the singer’s life and the British rock band Queen’s rise to stardom.
In the film, Gwilym Lee plays Brian May, lead guitarist of Queen. Film production had the support of real-life Queen members May and drummer Roger Taylor and Brian May. When I spoke to Lee about what it was like working with the two legends, he told me, “They knew the story better than anyone.” Lee commented that May was a “very warm and generous man, generous with his time” and someone “who wears his intelligence quietly,” referring to both May’s astrophysics background and musical talent. Having their blessing and support, Lee said, helped the cast and crew go forth with the film.
I asked him if he had to teach anyone a British accent. “Everyone was on top of it,” he said proudly, noting how hard each actor worked to recreate the precise manner of speaking for each Queen member. When I spoke with the next two actors, the camaraderie off set, mutual support, and work ethic in producing this film was clear. Lee said that the family dynamic was present both on and off set.
Rami Malek stars as frontman Freddie Mercury, a very different character than his other role, the introverted vigilante hacker Elliot from Mr. Robot. “I sure hope he [came across as] different,” laughed Malek after I asked him about balancing two different roles. Malek told me he wanted to portray “the multiple facets of Freddie Mercury” and that “Elliot wouldn’t have the charisma to pull off Freddie Mercury.”
Malek commented that owning the role with Mercury’s charisma was how he could honor the man the Queen singer was. When I asked about the toughest scene to film, he immediately remarked Wembley. The full-length recreated Live Aid Queen concert at Wembley is one of the longest portions of the film. Malek said the whole concert was filmed from the start before the rest of scenes were filmed.
The third star that night was Joe Mazzello, who plays Queen bass guitarist John Deacon. Mazzello noted his character’s personality as “reserved in public but engaging in private with the band members” and the “king of the one-liner.” Since I read that Mazzello had previous bass guitarist experience, I asked him about his experience with the film music. Mazzello spoke of one year of guitar lessons at 18 but when hearing word of the film, he practiced four days a week learning to play Queen songs. Five weeks of rehearsals and 10 days of filming the Wembley concert were some of the most intense for Mazzello, but the effort was well worth it, as parts of his bass guitar playing made it into the film.
A more formal review will come out when we’re closer to the film. While you wait, watch the trailers of Freddie Mercury giddily saying, “This is when the operatic section comes in.” The dramatic biopic Bohemian Rhapsody comes out soon in Boston.
Update 10/14/18: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the Live Aid concert Queen performed in was at Wimbledon instead of Wembley.