Two of Freddie Mercury’s biographers have hit out at the “superficial” portrayal of the Queen singer in new biopic Bohemian Rhapsody.
The film starring Rami Malek as Mercury has been a commercial success despite criticism for its shallow portrayal of Mercury and unwillingness to delve into his private life.
Bohemian Rhapsody, which was creatively controlled by Queen members Brian May and Roger Taylor, was panned for shying away from a realistic portrayal of the singer in the decades running up to his death from AIDS-related illness in 1991.
Two of Mercury’s biographers, both of whom spent time with the singer before his death, have this week hit out at the film’s distortions.
Lesley-Ann Jones, the author of Freddie Mercury: The Definitive Biography, told Billboard that the film was “a superficial montage of snapshots.”
She added: “Freddie was 45 when he died. No two-hour flick could portray his whole life story, or capture his true essence. His life and his personality were too complicated for that.”
“It fails to meet even the minimum factual or ethical standards one should expect from such a project.”
— Selim Rauer
Bohemian Rhapsody ‘airbrushes’ Freddie Mercury’s life
Selim Rauer, who wrote biography Freddie Mercury, went further in a piece for the Irish Times, accusing the film of “unconscious homophobic bias,” and criticising May and Taylor for “taking a neo-colonial knife” to Mercury’s story.
Rauer says the film “fails to meet even the minimum factual or ethical standards one should expect from such a project,” accusing the pair of trying to “reinvent reality” for both the band’s history and Mercury’s private life.
He accused the film of “airbrushing out” Mercury’s LGBT+ “second family” and spinning a “fiction” of a Mercury “crippled by remorse for acknowledging his homosexuality.”
Rauer wrote: “During his lifetime Freddie Mercury was made [to] feel humiliation because of his homosexuality. In his final months he faced an aggressive reaction to his illness lead by the tabloid media.
“Today his life is projected through a heteronormative lens that distorts a life of artistic achievement into a barely-concealed, shameful act of posthumous revenge.”
The film’s star Rami Malek previously hinted at his unhappiness with the lack of focus on the gay icon’s private life in the film, saying he “would’ve loved to have incorporated more” about Mercury’s relationship with Jim Hutton prior to his death from AIDS-related illness.
The star made another broadside in an interview with Australia’s WHO Magazine, saying that he wishes “we could delve deeper” into Freddie Mercury’s relationships with men.
Malek said: “I just kept pushing for more of that aspect of his life… I don’t know if we ever felt fulfilled by it.”
Bohemian Rhapsody’s gay scenes censored internationally
Some international versions of the film have cut out all of the scenes featuring Freddie Mercury and Jim Hutton.
The head of the Malaysian Film Censorship Board, Mohd Zamberi Abdul Aziz, confirmed earlier this month that the biopic has been censored to omit the references to his same-sex relationships.
Speaking to the Malay Mail, Aziz confirmed that the Malaysia release of Bohemian Rhapsody had cut “four gay scenes,” adding: “anything related to LGBT or promoting it will not be approved.”
Cinema-goers reported that around 20 minutes of material was excised from the film in Malaysia, while Aziz claimed there were three minutes cut.