Fact or Fiction? 11 Inaccuracies About Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody

Freddie Mercury’s life was already filled with excitement, but that doesn’t mean that it’d make a good movie just as it is. Here we bring you 11 times the creators of Bohemian Rhapsody took some liberties in order to tell the story of a brilliant man, but spoilers alert! Make sure to check #8, #5 and #4!

#11. How Freddie Mercury First Met the Band

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Queen’s evolution was much more slow-paced in real life than in the film! Tim Staffel (the bass player in the pre-Freddie version of Queen, Smile) introduced Brian May and Roger Taylor to Mercury when he was singing with a band called Ibex, which later changed its name to Wreckage. The first time Queen members were on stage together was actually at an Ibex show in 1969, Brian May and Roger Taylor joined Mercury for an encore, according to Queen Vault. So there wasn’t any casual audition, since Mercury was already a part of their musical circle. Also, when Staffel quit Smile, May, Taylor and Mercury were sharing an apartment, so they were hardly strangers! It is true, though, that Mercury took his chance to join Queen when Staffel left. Slide next to find out what surprised some people in the audience!

#10. The Marriage Proposal Was Different

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For those who were more familiar with Mercury’s reputation as a gay man living the rock star lifestyle, Mary Austin was probably a shock. Mercury was actually engaged to be married with his long-time girlfriend Mary Austin But the proposal was much more light-hearted than what was depicted on the film, and the ring wasn’t that big diamond, either. 

In a 2013 interview, Austin described the proposal “He gave me a big box on Christmas Day,” she said. “Inside was another box, then another and so it went on. It was like one of his playful games. Eventually, I found a lovely jade ring inside the last small box. … I was shocked. It just so wasn’t what I was expecting. I just whispered, ‘Yes. I will.’

Slide next to read more about Mercury’s wife!

#9. Freddie and Mary’s Relationship Wasn’t Really That Awkward

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The first part of their relationship was very well depicted in the movie. Freddie Mercury and Mary Austin never got married. Mercury started cheating on Austin with men. And his confession happened like the movie showed it — he told her he was bisexual, and she replied, “No, Freddie, you’re gay.” But that’s about it. The rest of their relationship was pretty much smooth, with no awkwardness or lengthy separation. Austin transitioned from ex-fiancée to dear friend and a part of his entourage, and the two remained close until Mercury’s death in 1991.

The truth is that Mercury continued to think of Austin as his “wife,” and was once quoted as saying, “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.”

Slide next to find out which character was entirely fictional!

#8. Ray Foster Wasn’t a Real Person

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Unrecognizable behind a wig, sunglasses and facial hair, Mike Myers plays Ray Foster, the fuzzy-haired, sunglasses-wearing EMI executive who is too short-sighted to see that “Bohemian Rhapsody” is a masterpiece. Foster complains that “Bohemian Rhapsody” is “six bloody minutes” and that they should choose “I’m in Love with my Car,” as the band’s next single instead. “That’s the kind of song teenagers can crank up the volume in their car and bang their heads to,” he declares. “‘Bohemian Rhapsody‘ will never be that song.”  the whole scene is really just a nod to the iconic moment in Wayne’s World movie, which featured Myers himself and Dana Carvey and their friends riding around their hometown in a 1976 AMC Pacer cranking up “Bohemian Rhapsody.” One of the more entertaining scenes in the film but it actually never happened. Ray Foster wasn’t even a real person. According to Rolling Stone, he’s loosely based on EMI chief Roy Featherstone, who did think “Bohemian Rhapsody” was too long to be a single. Still, the cheesy cameo sure was a funny moment to all the Wayne’s World fans!  Next one is about something that never actually happen!

#7. Freddie Mercury Never Fired John Reid

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During a car ride sometime in the early ’80s, Freddie heatedly fires John Reid for hinting that he should leave Queen to pursue a solo career while Paul Prenter (who in a previous scene insists that the solo album thing will go down better if it comes from Reid) explicitly denies having anything to do with the idea. In reality Reid left Queen in 1977. The band still remembers their relationship pretty fondly and feel the departure was rather anticlimactic.

“We had a good working relationship with John,” Taylor said in the 2011 Queen documentary Days of our Lives. “He was very fiery and very feisty, but so were we. So we weren’t scared of him.”

Slide next to read the truth about Mercury going solo.

#6. Mercury Never Quit Queen To Go Solo

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The movie shows a scene where Freddie announces to the rest of the band that he wants to go solo, which leaves the impression that he broke up Queen. Mercury tells his bandmates that he’s tired of it all, and he wants to leave the band to work on his solo project. His bandmates are left feeling devastated and betrayed, and they all part on very bad terms. But in reality, the decision to take a break was actually unanimous. Mercury wasn’t the only one working on a solo project at the time, either (May was already working on a solo record called Star Fleet Project, and Taylor was getting ready for a solo album too.) And they kept in touch during their time apart.

In the Mercury biography A Kind of Magic, Taylor said he didn’t think Mercury even wanted to be doing a solo album. “It’s just that he got an awful lot of money from CBS. When it came down to actually doing a solo album, he did sort of miss us. He used to ring me up, and I’d have to fly to Munich to do his background vocals.”

Next one is about the movie’s villain!

#5. The True Story About Paul Prenter

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The main antagonist In the movie, Prenter, is depicted as manipulative and selfish, he fails to pass along Mercury’s messages and runs every aspect of his life, meanwhile his friends fade away and opportunities pass by. When Mercury fires Prenter he tells the media all of Mercury’s secrets in a television interview. But that’s not how it happened. It is true that the other members of Queen hated him, in fact May and Taylor blamed Paul Prenter’s influence to the sound of Hot Space and didn’t like the album. But he was actually still working for Mercury during Live Aid, and it was before being fired that he went to the newspaper to tell the unflattering aspects of Freddie’s personal life. Mercury terminated Prenter’s employment after he sold a story to the Sun that ran with the scandalous headline “AIDS Kills Freddie’s Two Lovers.”

Slide next to find out what really happened before Live Aid!

#4. The Band’s Break-up Before Live Aid

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Queen never actually broke up. The real reason for the band’s late entry into Live Aid was because Bob Geldof, the show’s organizer, wasn’t sure he wanted them there. At the time, Queen’s reputation was at risk in the rock and roll community for a series of strange touring decisions (a concert in Argentina, which was under the rule of a corrupt and murderous dictatorship, then in Apartheid South Africa.) When the Live Aid invitation finally did come, the band hesitated, because they didn’t like playing in daylight, and they weren’t sure the sound at the event would be up to their standards. This break was introduced in the film to further the idea that Mercury needed to get back to his musical circle and continue his life’s purpose after the AIDS diagnosis. Luckily, Queen finally appeared in Live Aids with one of the greatest performance of all time. Slide next to read the truth about the relationship between Mercury’s wife and his lover!

#3. Mary Austin and Jim Hutton Never Got Close After Live Aid

 

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There’s no record that Jim Hutton and Mary Austin actually stood next to each other backstage at Live Aid but what’s more unlikely is their hugging as shown in the film. It is true that Mercury’s performance left them astonished, Jim Hutton recalled being “gobsmacked” while watching the show. In reality Austin and Jim Hutton didn’t have friendly relationship. This is illustrated by the fact that after the singer’s death, Austin inherited Freddie’s house and the bulk of his estate, and then kicked Hutton out of the house, even though Mercury had said he wanted Hutton to stay. According to journalist Tim Teeman, Hutton was given three months to pack up his stuff and leave, and he then used the £500,000 the singer left him to buy a house in west London and build a second home in Ireland. So he wasn’t left helpless, but Mary Austin clearly didn’t want him in her life. Slide next to find out more about Jim Hutton.

#2. Jim Hutton and Freddie Mercury’s First Meeting Was a Bit Less Romantic

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Freddie Mercury did have  a lengthy relationship with Jim Hutton that would last for the rest of Mercury’s life. But in reality they met at a gay nightclub in the mid-1980s, when Hutton was working as a hairdresser. Mercury offered to buy Hutton a drink, but Hutton refused. The two did reconnect a year and a half later, at another nightclub. In the movie, Hutton is working as waitstaff for Freddie Mercury, and Mercury hits on him but when Hutton walks off, Mercury has to scour the phone directory in hopes of finding him again. Freddie Mercury’s longtime partner Jim Hutton was a strong positive influence in the last years of his life so the embellishment to their love story was actually unnecessary, great love stories don’t always have to begin with cheesy romance! Slide next to find out what got the critics up in arms about this movie!

#1. Freddie’s Diagnosis Wasn’t Just Before Live Aid

 

Photo: Courtesy of The AV Club

The biggest liberty that movie makers took is when Freddie’s diagnosis came just before Live Aid; Mercury’s health starts to deteriorate as he’s working on his solo album and he tells his band mates that he has AIDS just before Live Aid. But according to Ultimate Classic Rock, Mercury wasn’t diagnosed until 1987, two years after Live Aid. Of all the film’s liberties, critics were outraged about this one. Suggesting that having AIDS somehow had something to do with his epic performance at Live Aid was considered an insult to Mercury, a man who responded to his Aids diagnosis with songs like Who Wants To Live Forever? and The Show Must Go On. It’s clear filmmakers did not want Bohemian Rhapsody to be a tragic story, but rather a story of Freddie becoming a superstar, to honor Mercury the showman. But in order to to save time and wrap everything up neatly with a redemptive finale, the tragic circumstances of his death were paired with Freddie Mercury’s finest onstage accomplishment to save time and present things in a more dramatic manner.

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