Bohemian Rhapsody originally had James Bond star as Freddie Mercury in ‘different’ story

Lucy Boynton on working with Rami on Bohemian Rhapsody

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After years in the making, Bohemian Rhapsody was a huge hit, taking over $900 million at the global box office and winning more Oscars than any other film in 2019. But before Rami Malek went on to pick up his Best Actor gong, there were other stars attached to playing Freddie Mercury before him. At one point, Sacha Baron Cohen was set for the role, but there was a James Bond star too.

Speaking on Brett Goldstein’s Films To Be Buried With podcast, Dexter Fletcher spoke of being parachuted in to finish the final weeks of shooting on Bohemian Rhapsody after director Bryan Singer was fired for going AWOL on set.

At the time, the British actor and filmmaker had been prepping for Elton John biopic Rocketman, so he was a perfect choice to complete the film. Although, it turns out he’d been the original director of the Queen biopic in the first place.

Fletcher shared: “Not many people know that prior to that, I’d been working on the film at a different studio. It was at Sony originally…when [James Bond Q star] Ben Whishaw was going to play Freddie. And we got up and running and we were casting, we had a script. It was quite different to what they ended up making. But that fell apart…and it didn’t actually happen. I’d met the band, I’d gone and hung out with them, worked with the producers and done a whole load of working prepping it. We were getting ready to go in the first week of pre-production and then Sony changed their minds because the wind changed direction or whatever. When it came back to me, I wasn’t completely unfamiliar with it, although it was a completely different script and this new cast and whatever.”

Asked if stepping onto the Bohemian Rhapsody set was quite hard after the previous director had been fired, Fletcher admitted: “Yeah it was, but I had to ignore that. I had to get my head down and get on with it. I forged a really quick and solid friendship with Rami…[who] was very supportive and I knew what his concerns were and what to address there. I got a list of what I thought were the problems; what was holding everything up and what was really fouling it up for everyone. So I kind of went in and decided to ignore those problems as it were…or just address them by being really sort of blatant and sort of big-headed and driving it forward.”

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From Day 1, Fletcher made sure everybody was on set at 8am, every morning. He said: “It sort of shocked everyone into ‘Right okay, this guy’s come in and he’s full of energy and determination.’ I sort of attacked it like that. And there was a lot of love for the project on there. All those people were really invested in it and they wanted it to be great. It’s not just a job…you’ve got to invest so much of yourself. So I just kind of exploited that in the best possible way!”

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