The art of creating a biopic about a now-famous figure is a difficult act that must manage to balance entertainment value with historical accuracy. That balancing act was doubly difficult for the new film depicting the life and times of Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, Bohemian Rhapsody.
Even after scoring the No. 1 box-office spot, $50 million in ticket sales and an A CinemaScore from audiences everywhere, Bohemian Rhapsody was still faced with many mixed reviews from critics. While most argued that the plotting and pacing of the film were messy, some also cited a number of historical inaccuracies that made the film fall flat.
The film did take some liberties with the story of Mr. Fahrenheit, but it also managed to reveal a great deal of truths about the career and personal life of one of the world’s greatest rock stars. Here are just a few things that Bohemian Rhapsody got right and wrong about Freddie Mercury:
RIght: Freddie Mercury was very inspired by actress Marlene Dietrich
In the film, a quick moment shows Freddie standing in his brand-new home at Garden Lodge with a large, iconic photo of German actress Marlene Dietrich behind him. In reality, Mercury expressed his true admiration for the artist, and she is widely cited as the main inspiration behind the now-iconic cover art of Queen’s second album, Queen II.
Wrong: It took much longer in real life for Freddie to join Queen
One of the more stunning ways the movie mishandles a truth about the group is when it shows how Freddie came to be Queen’s new frontman. The scene sees a young Freddie approaching Brian May and Roger Taylor after the show where their frontman and bassist Tim Staffell had just quit, singing a few bars of their song “Doin’ Alright” and joining the band after. In reality, Freddie had been good friends with Staffell, met and got to know Brian and Roger through Staffell, and even lived with the two before Staffell quit and he joined in.
Right: Freddie really did own at least 10 cats throughout his life
Outside of Rami Malek’s portrayal of Freddie Mercury, some of the brightest shining stars of the film are the various cats who appear as Freddie’s beloved pets. The portrayal of Freddie’s love for his animals rings true — he would often ask to speak to his cats on the phone while he was away touring, and he did have different rooms in his Garden Lodge home for each of his cats.
Wrong: Jim Hutton never worked as a servant for Freddie
The film introduces the audience to Jim Hutton when, after a particularly long party, Freddie makes a drunken pass at him. After a conversation about the singer being “lost,” the two part ways only for Freddie to look him up and find him at home years later. But Jim Hutton never worked as a waiter or server for Freddie — he was a hairdresser at the Savoy Hotel, and the two met at a club near the singer’s home in 1983.
Right: Freddie did credit his teeth for his singing voice
Upon meeting Brian May and Roger Taylor in the film, Freddie remarks that while his teeth may look funny, it’s because he has four extra incisors that he has such dramatic vocal range. This is something that the singer truly believed — while he was insecure about his teeth for much of his life, he always denied those who said he could have them fixed, saying he was concerned surgery or too much dentistry could affect his singing voice.
Wrong: Neither Freddie nor Queen knew about his AIDS diagnosis before Live Aid
Fans and critics were concerned that Bohemian Rhapsody would fail to mention Mercury’s AIDS diagnosis, yet the film did — though not very accurately. In the film, Freddie informs his bandmates of his diagnosis during a rehearsal one week before their famous Live Aid performance in 1985. But by almost all accounts, including one from Jim Hutton himself, Freddie didn’t even know he had the disease until April 1987.
Right: Freddie Mercury and Mary Austin really were as close as the movie shows
Throughout the film, after the fallout of their relationship, Freddie and Mary Austin maintain a friendship that lasted for the rest of the singer’s life, with Austin comforting him and telling him how she feels about what he’s doing on a regular basis. This is true to life, and may even be an understatement of how close the two truly were — at the end of his life, Mercury even went as far as to leave half of his wealth and estate to Austin.
Wrong: Queen’s Live Aid performance wasn’t a “reunion”
The film makes a number of mistakes when it comes to the “breakup” of the band that happens in its third act. Not only Freddie wanted to make solo music; both Roger Taylor and Brian May put out solo records during the same period. But most importantly, the band’s reunion in the film is characterized as them seizing the opportunity to perform at Live Aid. Really, the band had already been back together when the benefit came around — they even recorded and released their album The Works after their reunion but before Live Aid.