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How 'Bohemian Rhapsody' Recreated Queen's Legendary Live Aid Performance

Updated August 20, 2019 43.6k views11 items
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Arguably the most stunning part of Bohemian Rhapsody, the Live Aid sequence in the movie truly took audiences' breath away. The realism, the energy, and the musical power on screen transport viewers back to 1985 with an amazing recreation of Queen's epic performance.

Queen's set at Live Aid in 1985 stole the show back then, and once again in Bohemian Rhapsody. Behind-the-scenes stories about recreating the event speak to how much respect the makers of Bohemian Rhapsody had for Queen, for Freddie Mercury, and for the legacy of the performance. The cast and crew of Bohemian Rhapsody knew they had to get the details of Live Aid just right and took meticulous steps to do so. They brought in experts, studied film, and even built a set to match the original stage. The result was an incredibly accurate recreation of a magical, once-in-a-lifetime event.

  • Filmmakers Blocked Out The Sun To Heighten The Realism

    Dealing with rainy weather in England was a common difficulty for the Bohemian Rhapsody filmmakers, but Queen performed around 6 PM on July 13, 1985 - a prime spot in the Live Aid lineup and late enough in the day for the sunlight to be fading. In order to recreate the shadows, the light, and other environmental aspects of the performance, the film's cinematographer worked to create and block natural light.

    Director of photography Newton Thomas Sigel said, "We had to try and match shots done in full sun, then shade, and at different times of the day, so that we could give it some continuity. And we had to try and match our material with the original Live Aid footage as much as possible, and not take too much dramatic license, even though it’s a film and not a documentary."

    An additional challenge was lighting the show itself. Everyone at Live Aid had the same lighting, possibly left over from a Bruce Springsteen concert days before. In Brian May's opinion, the fact that all of the acts used the same stage, lights, and backdrop did a great service to the music.

  • Step-By-Step Choreography Couldn't Do Queen's Performance Justice

    As he transformed into Freddie Mercury, Rami Malek threw himself into the life, style, and eccentricities of the famed singer. Malek soon realized that trying to choreograph his movements on stage didn't work. As Malek put it:

    I needed... to capture his spontaneity. The man's not choreographed. Every time he steps out onto a stage, no one knows what he's going to do, and that's what I knew I needed to tether myself to. In order to do that, I realized, I can't work with a choreographer, I need someone to help me with movement, someone to help me discover the impetus for why he does what he does. Why every flick of the wrist occurs with him in such an elegant, sometimes dainty and sometimes aggressive way, depending on his mood. I just had to find his humanity - what his conflicts were - and discover all the sides of him, because I knew there was more to Freddie Mercury than a man who holds an audience in the palm of his hand. But I had to get that down as well.

    Mercury's Live Aid performance exemplified his ability to captivate an audience. As a result, the makers of Bohemian Rhapsody focused on studying Mercury's movements and embodying his spirit as much as simply recreating the event.

  • Rami Malek And Other Cast Members Worked With A Movement Coach

    Before filming the Live Aid scene, Rami Malek, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, and Joseph Mazzello rehearsed for six weeks. They worked with movement coach Polly Bennett and studied YouTube videos of the concert to master the mannerisms of their musical counterparts. 

    Malek and Bennett dove deeper into Mercury's life and mannerisms, studying his childhood, his physicality, and even his major influences like Aretha Franklin and Liza Minelli. Bennett explained, "[Freddie] was a long-distance runner at school and a boxer... this gives us a reason why Freddie ran across the stage and punched the air, and [allows me to explain to] Rami: ‘This is why that character moves the way that he does.’"

  • The Sequence Was Intentionally Chosen To End The Movie On A Positive Note

    Queen's Live Aid performance was placed at the end of Bohemian Rhapsody to send viewers out into the world on a positive note. Producer Graham King stated that the sequence was "so important to the story, because their performance grabbed people’s attention around the world." Queen's performance cemented the success of Live Aid as the band "really galvanized a global audience in a way no one else had."

    Giving audiences the Live Aid experience, according to King, was meant to "uplift audiences, rather than have them leave feeling depressed or emotional about Freddie [Mercury] and what he went through in his personal life... it's a real celebration."