Lucy Boynton on working with Rami on Bohemian Rhapsody
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Bohemian Rhapsody continues to dominate Netflix’s Top 10 this weekend, following the film’s incredible Oscars and box office success almost four years ago. A Freddie Mercury biopic had been in the works for years, with Sacha Baron Cohen originally being attached to play the Queen singer. In the end, Rami Malek bagged the role which won him the Best Actor Academy Award, but before all the glory there was real trouble during production.
Back in December 2017, Bohemian Rhapsody had only a couple of weeks left of filming. There were rumours that director Bryan Singer had clashed in “on-set chaos” with Malek over the filmmaker allegedly going AWOL on a number of occasions and the cinematographer having to step in.
In the end, the filmmaker was fired with Rocketman director Dexter Fletcher being parachuted in to save the Queen biopic as uncredited director.
Over a year later and Singer didn’t join the rest of the cast and crew on the red carpets of awards season despite his BAFTA nomination and amid multiple sexual assault allegations unrelated to the production that he strongly denies.
So what really happened on the Bohemian Rhapsody set? At the time of his termination, Singer claimed the studio wouldn’t allow him to look after “a gravely ill parent”.
The fired director stated: “I wanted nothing more than to be able to finish this project and help honour the legacy of Freddie Mercury and Queen, but Fox would not permit me to do so because I needed to temporarily put my health, and the health of my loved ones, first. Rumours that my unexpected departure from the film was sparked by a dispute I had with Rami Malek are not true. While, at times, we did have creative differences on set, Rami and I successfully put those differences behind us and continued to work on the film together until just prior to Thanksgiving.”
In January 2019, Bohemian Rhapsody producer Graham King shared: “It’s an unfortunate situation, with like 16, 17 days to go and Bryan Singer just had some issues, his mother was very sick, and he’s the kind of guy that he needs to have 100% focus. He just said, I want to hiatus the film, and deal with what he had going on in his life. And the studio wanted to finish the film. And of course, my job is to protect the film at any cost and that’s what I was there to do.” We were such a family by then, Rami [Malek] was driving that train every morning…we just all did what we had to do to get the movie finished.”
In the end, 20th Century Fox fired Singer under the “pay or play” provision in his contract.
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In 2020, Malek spoke of how he overcame that difficult time on the Bohemian Rhapsody set.
The Freddie Mercury star shared: “There is something in me that I marshalled in those moments that I’m extremely proud of. I wish I could have that same type of courage and confidence in every aspect of my life, but when the s*** hits the fan, to be able to find some part of you that you had hoped existed was profoundly moving and hopeful. I think a lot of us had that, and it made me quite proud of the nature of humans I was working with.”
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