Bohemian Rhapsody, the 2018 movie about Queen and beloved singer Freddie Mercury, took the top spot at the box office when it opened. But few realize it was eight years in the making. The story behind the making of Bohemian Rhapsody includes plenty of controversy and arguments. Many different scripts, directors, and actors joined the movie and were then replaced or fired. And it transformed from a gritty R-rated tale to a family-friendly epic and then halfway back again.
While the original song is an undisputed classic with a fascinating history of its own, this collection of Bohemian Rhapsody stories tells the tale of the troubled and chaotic production that brought Queen's journey to movie theaters worldwide.
The story of Bohemian Rhapsody began with producer Graham King's desire to make a movie about Freddie Mercury, which he allegedly brought to the surviving members of Queen around 2008. While King needed their approval to get started, it was personally important to him that the band stay involved as the project got underway.
According to Film Journal, at first, the musicians were too focused on the historical accuracy of the movie, prompting King to say, "We're making a film, not a documentary."
Early on, Borat star Sacha Baron Cohen was approached to play Freddie Mercury. Apart from the physical resemblance, Cohen was excited to tackle the part and took an active role in developing the story. He envisioned a rough-edged R-rated movie that would capture Mercury's outrageous energy and life struggles.
While chosen partly for his unpredictability, director Stephen Frears told Vulture some people were shocked by the explicit content Cohen wanted to include.
Sacha Baron Cohen played an active role in recruiting key members of the crew. He brought on Peter Morgan, the acclaimed British screenwriter behind Frost/Nixon and The Queen, to develop the script. Deadline reported Cohen also pushed for directors with experience making serious and dark dramas, like Tom Hooper (The King's Speech and Les Misérables) and David Fincher (The Social Network and Gone Girl).
Queen apparently refused to approve any of the directorial choices, though.
As things moved along, Sacha Baron Cohen and Peter Morgan continued to butt heads with Queen over the script. Cohen's idea of an explicit R-rated movie didn't sit well with the band, who apparently wanted a family-friendly film that would keep their legacy untarnished.
At one point, Cohen told Howard Stern, a member of Queen thought Freddie Mercury's death should serve as the midpoint of the movie, with the second half focusing on what the band did in the years after. The conflict only grew, prompting Cohen to quit and Morgan to quickly follow suit.