The biopic genre has a proven track record when it comes to musicians, despite the fact that it’s probably more difficult to achieve compared to other biographical attempts. Each attempt is a bit of a Frankenstein tale. On the one hand you must re-create the image, the look, the style, the flair, the charisma of the musician. He or she must perfectly emulate the style of skill the musician was famous for. The filmmaker must also encounter the emotion the music itself brings forth through the actor and somehow, via filmmaking skill or instinct–or just plain magic–resurrect the performances, the good and the bad, to trick us all into thinking we’re watching the real thing. And yet filmmakers have succeeded over and over. After months of waiting we now have our first look at Mr. Robot’s Rami Malek as Queen frontman Freddie Mercury in the first trailer for Bohemian Rhapsody. Check it out below. It’s a great casting and a great trailer, and it may send chills down your spine.
Art is in the eye of the beholder, so you may not buy every instance where Hollywood has put music stars on the screen, but take a look at just a few attempts. They can be from any time period. Take Tom Hulce as Mozart in Amadeus. Was that an easier task since modern audiences didn’t have a pre-conceived notion of what to expect? Similarly, do we know whether Gary Oldman was successful as Beethoven in Immortal Beloved? Flash forward to the first part of the 20th century and more contemporary audiences knew Clifton Webb made a great John Philip Sousa in Stars and Stripes Forever, James Cagney knew every step of George M. Cohan in Yankee Doodle Dandy, and Jimmy Stewart had Glenn Miller’s mannerisms down in The Glenn Miller Story. Sometimes these life stories brought out the very best work of their actors, like Sissy Spacek in Coal Miner’s Daughter, Jessica Lange as Patsy Cline in Sweet Dreams, Lou Diamond Phillips as Ritchie Valens in La Bamba, Gary Busey as Buddy Holly in The Buddy Holly Story, and Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles in Ray. The best yet may very well be Val Kilmer as Jim Morrison in The Doors. Kilmer became Morrison for a legion of the band’s fans.
In the past three years social media has highlighted the aging of the rock ‘n’ roll generation, as the architects of the music begin to pass away at a quicker rate, not only the good–or great–who died young (like Billie Holiday, Nat King Cole, Jim Hendrix, Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding, and Janis Joplin), but the founders that lived long lives, like Chuck Berry, and some of the biggest names in all of modern pop music: Elvis Presley, John Lennon, Michael Jackson, Prince, David Bowie, and Tom Petty. So it would seem moviegoers should expect a flood of biopics of musicians in the coming years.
Freddie Mercury was one of a kind, any way you describe him. From a casting standpoint, he had a unique look that couldn’t have been easy to copy. It’s great that audiences have had the chance to see Rami Malek in a critically acclaimed major performance before he goes all-in with such a beloved personality. And it’s not only Malik. Ashes to Ashes and Midsomer Murder’s Gwilym Lee is a ringer for Brian May, too. Don’t take our word for it–here’s the amazingly cut trailer for Bohemian Rhapsody:
It’s easy to predict a Best Actor nod come Oscar season for Malek if this trailer reflects the entire film. Bryan Singer and Dexter Fletcher directed the film, which co-stars Mike Myers (Austin Powers, Shrek), Lucy Boynton (Murder on the Orient Express) as Mary Austin, Ben Hardy (X-Men: Apocalypse, Mary Shelley) as Roger Taylor, and Joseph Mazzello (Jurassic Park, G.I. Joe: Retaliation) as John Deacon.
Look for Bohemian Rhapsody in the UK on October 28, 2018, and in U.S. theaters November 2, 2018.