Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody was rocked with just two weeks left to film when director Bryan Singer was fired after a series of absences.
But the stars of the film and producer Graham King told The Hollywood Reporter earlier this week that they weren’t worried about the fate of the movie when Singer left the project (Dexter Fletcher finished filming but Singer remains credited as the sole director), explaining that everyone was determined to keep on fighting ’til the end.
“We always knew the film was going to get finished,” Gwilym Lee, who plays guitarist Brian May, said ahead of a special screening of the film in New York. “We always knew it was going to be done. Because everyone was so invested in it. Everyone was very, very passionate about this film — cast and crew. So even on the toughest days, we all looked at each other and we knew we’d get each other through. In the face of adversity, there was an incredible bond between everybody on set. There was a certainty that it was going to get done, that it was going to get finished.”
Joe Mazzello, who plays bassist John Deacon, added that he and the cast never felt concerned the film wouldn’t get finished.
“We felt like the producers cared so deeply about this; Rami [Malek], the other actors cared so deeply; the crew — if things would go wrong on set and they had to stay for three hours over, they would stay for the boys — talking about us. It was so moving, because everyone just felt like a family,” Mazzello told THR. “So when you feel that kind of respect and love for one another, you know the movie’s going to get finished and it’s going to get finished well.”
Singer was fired in December 2017 after what studio 20th Century Fox said were unexplained absences following clashes between the director and Malek, who plays Queen frontman Freddie Mercury. Singer claimed that his exit was due to the studio refusing to let him care for “a gravely ill parent” and his own health.
“I wanted nothing more than to be able to finish this project and help honor the legacy of Freddie Mercury and Queen,” he said in a statement shortly after his exit, “but Fox would not permit me to do so because I needed to temporarily put my health, and the health of my loved ones, first.”
King, alluding to Singer’s explanation for his exit, told THR this week, that he too wasn’t worried about what would happen to the film. “I understood why Brian wanted to shut the film down for a while, to deal with his life, and I was there to finish the film, no matter what it took.”
The actors had already done a lot of work to transform into Queen.
“There’s no limit to the amount of research you can do with this band because there’s such a wealth of material on them,” Lee told THR, explaining of his own preparation, “It starts out with the internet and it starts out with YouTube and going down every single possible rabbit hole you can think of in terms of looking for interviews and live music gigs and everything. You do feel a responsibility to try to find out absolutely everything because you would feel like an idiot after the film if you found out a certain gesture that Brian does or a certain way that he plays a certain song that you didn’t know about. So that was the beginning, and then lots of guitar practice, which was a real challenge for me, because I played a little bit of guitar before but, you know, we had a short amount of time to reach rock god status, which is tough. Then it was meeting Brian and spending time with him and that was amazing. I’d always idolized the man and he was a hero of mine and I loved Queen and him in particular, so to spend time with him and to demystify him and see him as a human being and just get to know him on an individual basis, that was the best.”
Mazzello added, “It’s amazing the kinds of things we had to think about. I had to start with just holding my face the right way and then I had to move like [John Deacon] onstage and figure that out and watch countless hours on YouTube of just John Deacon, cameras following him around. Then I had to actually learn how to play the bass. Then when I learned how to play the bass, I had to learn how to play it like John Deacon. Then I had to learn his dialect, because it’s a very specific, East Midlands accent. I haven’t even gotten to the acting yet. And these are all things that I had to already think about before even going into the job and bringing life to this character. So the amount of research I did was amazing. We actually did five weeks of rehearsal in England where they gave me a bass teacher. We were doing band rehearsals; they gave me a movement coach. And we were together, the four of us, day in and day out, throughout that rehearsal process and then every day on set, because the performances didn’t end there. We had to go throughout the entire six-month shoot.”
After the bad buzz from Singer’s exit, Bohemian Rhapsody received negative feedback to its first trailer with fans upset about how the movie seemingly approached Mercury’s sexuality and battle with AIDS.
In response to those who are concerned about that, King said, “I think we made a two-hour-and-15-minute entertaining and crowd-pleasing film. I always, from day one, set out to celebrate their music — Queen and Freddie’s music. I think a story that delves more into the private life of Freddie is not as interesting to the fans and to the moviegoing public as well as our one is now. I think it’s a highly entertaining film. If we can make it feel like a concert then I think we achieved what I set out to achieve.”
Malek, meanwhile, alluded to the pressure of playing such a beloved figure when he said that the most difficult part of his transformation was letting go of the great expectations he faced.
“I think trying to remove this kind of nagging idea that Freddie means everything to everyone — and he is an hero and icon for so many people and everyone appreciates him in their own unique way, their own personal way, that I could never be all of those things to everyone. I had to bring some of my own humanity to this to attempt to blend with his,” Malek told THR.
This article originally appeared on The Hollywood Reporter.