Freddie Mercury: The Ultimate Showman (2019) Movie Script

- There's only one
thing we needed to do
and that was to celebrate
Freddie Mercury in this film.
- Probably fair to say we
were reluctant actually
to approach this format.
Roger and myself but
we had this feeling
that if we didn't do it
and we didn't do it
with the right people
than it would get
done wrong by somebody
and it wouldn't
do Freddie justice
so we really in the interest
of portraying Freddie
as he deserves to be
portrayed we got into it.
- He is a marvel.
There is only one
Freddie Mercury
and nothing was
gonna compromise us
giving him the love, celebration
and adulation he deserves.
- It's like
unconquered territory.
[upbeat music]
- Freddie was the
ultimate showman.
- Multiracial, not
traditionally good looking,
openly gay and if
you say flamboyant in
the way you perform.
He was a showman, he
was all these things.
Freddie Mercury did
not hide who he was.
- Most people look at Freddie
and say this is
the greatest voice
to ever come out of rock 'n roll
and probably a fair description.
- [Narrator] Spurred on by
their forthright frontman,
Freddie, Queen's
single-mindedness and
constant reinvention
paid off and they created
some of the most memorable
songs of all time.
We are the champions
- Freddie Mercury
was showbiz, bubala.
He should have been the
pantomime really, you know.
As one of the ugly
sisters or, you know.
No time for losers 'cause
we are the champions
- There are certain things
that I use in my stage act
which I know automatically I
will get a certain reaction
because I know I've
been there before.
Of the world
[gentle guitar]
- [Narrator] Freddie
Mercury is regarded
as one of England's
greatest ever icons
and yet he was
born and brought up
on another island far, far away.
- So one thing that a
lot of people don't know
is that Freddie Mercury was
actually born in Zanzibar.
His given name of birth
was not Freddie Mercury
it was Farrokh Bulsara.
- [Narrator] While his
early childhood was spent
on the exotic spice
island of Zanzibar
it wasn't long before young
Farrokh was sent to India
to attend a British style
boarding school for boys.
It was here that he
learned to play the piano
and started to call
himself Freddie.
By the time he was 12
he'd formed a school band
called, The Hectics and
was covering artists
like Cliff Richard.
When Zanzibar gained
independence in 1964
Freddie's family left the
island and came to England
settling in Feltham, Middlesex.
With his neat and tidy
schoolboy appearance
17-year-old Freddie stood out
from the burgeoning hippy crowd
but it wasn't long before
he enrolled in art college
and began to cultivate
his own look.
Meanwhile a teenage Brian May
was also studying in London.
Freddie was developing a
reputation for flamboyance
at college and by the
time he moved to London
in the late 60s he had set
up a secondhand clothes store
in Kensington Market.
It was here that he met Brian.
Brian was in a
band called, Smile
with fellow students Roger
Taylor and Tim Staffell.
- The earlier band which had
not included Freddie or John
was a band called, Smile.
And if you see pictures
of Brian and Roger
it's pretty much
still hippy time.
- [Narrator] Freddie was
in various bands of his own
but had little
success with them.
He used to go and
watch Smile's gigs
taking particular interest
in their lead singer,
Tim Staffell's performance.
- It was very interesting that
Freddie pursued the group.
He thought he
belonged in this group
and he made himself
immediately known
when Tim Staffell dropped out.
That was a big mistake.
- [Narrator] Freddie
soon made an impact
changing both the band's
name and his own surname.
- Farrokh wanted to
be called Freddie.
Freddie being interested
in music from an early age
would have known that
there had never been
a pop star called, Farrokh.
And so suddenly instead
of Farrokh Bulsara
Freddie Mercury and
of course Mercury
is the messenger of the gods.
It's a very grand
and exalted name.
This is an amazing case
of personal reinvention
but it worked.
I've always been intrigued
by show business artists
who become their own image.
One of the great examples of
that is Bryan Ferry of course
who came from the
Northeast of England.
He came from poverty
and with Roxy
he went through various images.
It was very exciting, a
different image every year
and then he settled on
the English gentleman look
and he became an
English gentleman
and indeed he was honored
in the Queen's birthday
honors list in 2011.
That's a great example
of someone becoming
their own image.
Well, Freddie is one
of the greatest cases
of reinvention of image there's
ever been in show business.
- A more fitting last name he
really couldn't have picked.
Mercury stands for the gods,
it's regal, it's divine.
It really is all the
things this entity
that is Freddie Mercury will
become on the global stage
and in popular culture.
Not just in Queen
but as a solo person
and persona and also long
after his death as well.
- [Paul] Within music everyone
was calling him Freddie.
- By the time I met him
he was definitely Freddie
and in fact it was some
time before I realized
what his original name was
because he still had a passport
in his birth name.
But he lived his character,
he was Freddie Mercury
and that was all
he wanted to be.
One voice one hope
one real decision
Whoa whoa whoa
whoa whoa yeah
Oh yeah oh yeah
- [Narrator] Calling
the band Queen
was a controversial decision.
- I think in some ways
that the name didn't do them
any favors in the early days
because it had
obvious connotations.
People thought they were
something they weren't
but there was always this
regal kind of feel to them.
- Freddie had named the band.
Of course he was at
that point in time
emphasizing the regal factor.
So I remember
asking him about it.
'Cause we're very regal, Mick.
- By the time I met Freddie he
was living in Central London
in the Kensington area
and he didn't talk
much about his past.
He wasn't for one
second ashamed of it
but I think he just had moved on
but I know he was very
fond of his family
and is suspect he
was lovely to them.
From time to time he would
talk about living abroad
and the influences but I
think he grew up very quickly
especially when they
had their first hit
and he was already very
confident most of the time
and I just feel that he just
embraced the whole thing
with the music business
and being a star.
Although he was quite
often quiet and shy
and would sit quietly
in one corner.
- Shirley Bassy a girl
from Tiger Bay in Wales.
Who would ever expect a
girl from Tiger Bay in Wales
to become an international diva?
But Shirley Bassy did it
and she had this panache
and this style which was
almost unprecedented.
This is my life
And I don't give a
damn for lost emotions
- In show business
you learn very quickly
or else you just stop doing it
that people accept you on the
way that you present them.
Now you can't then just say,
oh but I'm not really like that.
It's the only way they know.
But that's liberating and
it gives you opportunity
because they will only
know what you give them.
So you can be from Zanzibar,
you can have bad teeth
but if you give them
dignity and power
they will treat you as a
dignified and powerful person.
It's the one way in which
he takes the band with him.
They couldn't have known when
they added him as the singer
that he was gonna
turn out that way
because nobody had had that
sense of theatricality in rock.
- [Interviewer] A thing
that everybody I suppose
is going to be wondering
about the campness of the act.
That was one of the things
I read in the pop press
in England that he act
was a little bit camp.
- It's not really
camp, you know.
It's rock 'n roll and
it's very visual as well.
There's a lot of rock
'n roll music there.
- I think it's the same
as the variety content
that we have on the album.
We try and put that
across onstage.
I mean each song that we
do has a different sort
of meaning to it.
So I mean, you know
it is rock 'n roll.
It has that sort of
label but within that
I mean each song has a
different sort of feel.
- [Interviewer] Would you say
it was rock 'n roll theater?
- Yes, you could call it that.
I mean it's very
difficult to label
because each song is
in a different sort
of category really.
I mean from 1920s vaudeville
to the real sort
of raw rock 'n roll
to the ballad, you know.
- [Narrator] With
their newfound identity
the band set about making
a name for themselves
on the university music circuit.
- We were told there
was a really good band
playing at Imperial College
and I went along with some
of my friends from EMI
and one or two other people
not really knowing
what to expect
and I was absolutely blown away.
I don't think I've ever seen
a new band play like that.
The place was absolutely packed,
they really worked the audience
and I mean we all just stood
there with our mouths open.
We were just stunned.
- You can see it's
this microscopic stage
and Freddie is performing like
he's already in a stadium.
I mean he's big,
he projected big.
- And of course they
wrote their own material.
The lyrics were wonderful,
the melodies were fantastic.
I think on the whole
they were streaks ahead
of the other young bands
around at the time.
- [Narrator] Finding
the right bass player
was proving difficult
but in February 1971
Queen found the right
chemistry with John Deacon
and started rehearsing
their first album.
When a friend of Brian's
set up a new studio
called, De Lane Lea
he needed a loud band
to test his new equipment.
In exchange Queen were allowed
to record their demo
tape at night for free.
They recorded four
high quality songs
and started pitching their demo.
- The very act of
receiving a demo
is not one that thrills
someone in the record business
which is why a lot of
demos do go unheard.
The heroes are the
people like John Peel
who listen to everything.
So it would take
some further time
from just the act
of making the demo
to it having any impact at all.
- [Narrator] Queen
continued to make music
and rehearse at night.
One day John Anthony
and Roy Thomas Baker,
producers from London's
Trident Studios
walked past and heard
the band playing.
They went back to their bosses
convinced they'd found a talent.
Queen signed a management
contract with Trident
but needed to find
a record label.
- Basically the way it happened
was that their
manager came to EMI
and offered it to Roy
Featherstone who was my boss.
He was the general manager
of the pop division.
Basically we got a
set of copy tapes
and we weren't quite
sure what to make of it
because it fell
between a lot of things
that were going on at the time.
Prog rock thing happening.
There was the burgeoning
glam rock thing
and they sat somewhere
rather oddly in the middle.
Somewhere I guess
where we wanted to be
in that Roxy Music niche
but we weren't quite
sure to start with.
- [Narrator] EMI knew
the band were promising
but didn't know
how to market them.
They needed a promoter.
Roy Featherstone
knew just the man.
- He said, "Well Eric
"you really feel that
strong about the band
"then you must promote
them until they happen.
"You personally have to
go around Radio One, Two,
"Three and Four and
87" or whatever it was.
"Capital shrapital you
have to promote it."
My pleasure, great.
- [Narrator] Eric
started to promote Queen
but it was more difficult
than he and EMI expected.
- The record comes
out, the first single,
Keep Yourself Alive
and I'm plugging it.
Keep yourself alive
Keep yourself alive
Take you on your time
and money only to survive
- The first single the
band does is for EMI
is called, Keep Yourself Alive
and there's nothing about
it listening to it now
that you would think,
oh that's Queen.
It's very middle-of-the-road
contemporary rock.
You don't hear any of
what we come to know
as Freddie Mercury's
amazing vocal range.
You don't hear any sort
of incredible guitar work.
It could be any band,
it's very, very generic.
- Got a few plays.
Not monster, quite a
few plays but not many.
Not enough to even get it into
the breakers in the chart.
Completely fell completely
and I thought Eric, you schmuck.
- [Narrator] EMI decided that
touring might be the solution.
- That was when we got them on
to the Mott the Hoople tour.
The deal was that
Mott's management
wanted two grand to put
a band onto the tour.
They thought Queen
was a good fit.
- Queen certainly made this
a double bill of valid acts.
- We were very,
very happy with it.
You're always fearful of
seeing the audience disappear
to the bar the moment
the support act comes on
if they don't go down well.
And they kept the audience
and there were lots
of sighs of relief
and shaking of hands and
saying, well this looks good.
- But I didn't think they
were a superstar act.
Why not?
Because they themselves
hadn't found out yet
what made them really special.
- [Narrator] It was while
supporting Mott the Hoople
that Queen met
photographer Mick Rock.
- I was impressed, I
mean they had power
and they had melody.
- [Narrator] They played him
some of their new tracks.
- And I went whoa, Ziggy
Stardust meets Led Zeppelin.
- [Narrator] The band
knew that they needed
a more dramatic image for
their second album cover.
- They wanted a piece
of this glam image.
They wanted a black
and white theme
and they wanted to
feature the band.
This is a band that hadn't
made the record label any money
and they were already
bossing them around
and getting what they wanted.
- [Narrator] At the time up
and coming photographer Mick
was interested in
the portrait styles
of the old Hollywood stars
and shared the
images with Freddie.
- And I showed him this
picture of Marlene Dietrich
and suggested that that
should be the approach
for the black shot of
the band and he loved it.
I mean whether it was the shot
or whether it was the fact
that it was Marlene Dietrich,
I shall be Marlene, you know?
I mean he immediately responded.
- [Narrator] Keep Yourself
Alive had sold poorly
but the first single released
from their second album
Seven Seas of Rhye
was a top 10 hit.
- The foundation really
was Keep Yourself Alive
and after that foundation
was strong, monster strong,
enough to Seven Seas
of Rhye comes out
and then it took off.
Fear me you lord
and lady preachers
I descend upon your
Earth from the skies
- When we got to Queen II
this was stuff
that they'd written
since things had started
to happen for them
and I think they were full
of all that very
early enthusiasm.
They had so many ideas I think
they could probably have done
10 times the tracks they did
and I think that
really comes over.
It's the energy, it's the
variety of influences.
I just think that in my opinion
it's one of their best albums.
- [Narrator] While promoting
the band, Eric Hall
discovered that he and Freddie
shared similar passions.
- He realized that my
kind of taste in music
was Sinatra, was a lady
called, Josephine Baker.
Was sort of a bit more, not
camp schmamp but outrageous.
Judy Garland, you know,
friend of Dorothy types.
He loved all that too,
he loved all that.
Get ready for
the judgment day
- [Narrator] The pair bonded
over their love of music
and spent time together on tour.
- I'm laying in my bed at
the Holiday Inn, Luxembourg.
About three o'clock in
the morning something
knock on my door.
Hello, yeah who is it?
Eric it's Freddie dear,
Freddie dear, Freddie dear.
What do you want?
I just come in a
minute, I'm coming.
Oh yeah, yeah.
So I let him in.
Over he come and I'm
laying on the bed
and I said, Freddy what's
the problem, bubala?
It's three o'clock in
the morning, bubala
We gotta get up at eight o'clock
we're getting the
plane back to London.
No, no, I just just
wanna be with you.
I said you can be
with me with pleasure
tomorrow on the plane bubala.
I'll make sure I sit next to
you and not the other boys.
You or whoever it
was on the trip.
No, no, now, now.
I know you're not
into what I like
but can I just hold your hand?
I said, that's what you gotta
hold is my hand, bubala.
Nothing else though
just my hand.
And in fact he held my
finger in actual fact.
I think it was my finger anyway.
I think it was my
finger, I'm not sure.
- [Narrator] Later that year
Queen produced their third
album, Sheer Heart Attack.
It was to be their first
taste of commercial success
on both sides of the Atlantic.
- Mick Rock had had his
iconic shot of the heads
on the Queen II album sleeve
but this was for me even better.
- This time they had a concept.
What they wanted to
do was to look like
they were thrown
up on some beach
in a desert island somewhere
looking completely
whacked out or wasted.
- There was something very
liberating, very decadent,
very free about
that album sleeve
and slightly sexually
Showing the members of the group
in various stages of disarray.
- The discomfort they had to
go through on that session
was my doing but was
not my conception.
- [Narrator] The artwork wasn't
the only outstanding
feature of the album.
The track, Killer Queen
proved to be a landmark moment
for the band.
- Killer Queen to me
is the first of the
classic Queen tracks
because here Freddie has
found his lyrical mode.
Wanna try
So many parts of that
song are just so clever.
Recommended at the price
Insatiable an appetite
- Then at the appropriate
moments there's the contrast
with Brian's ferocious guitar.
[electric guitar wails]
This is it, they've
also incorporated
the high harmonies of Roger.
Guaranteed to blow
your mind anytime
- And this was the song
that broke them in America.
- [Narrator] Killer
Queen was a smash hit.
Freddie's lyrics impressed
and bemused almost everyone.
- Killer Queen is open to
interpretation I think.
I think the lyrics were
allegedly to do with
some people they were involved
with in their management
that weren't their best friends.
Who knows?
There are all sorts
of interpretations.
I heard a lot of
stories over the years.
- This story is this.
He comes to see me one
day to play me a record
and he says to me, "Eric,
I want you to hear this."
And he puts this record on
Killer queen
goodbye to [mumbles]
I said, love it, love
it, it's gonna be a hit.
Love it, monster,
monster, gonna be a hit.
Eric you haven't
listened to the lyric.
I have!
No listen again,
put it on again.
She keeps her Moet et
Chandon in a fancy cabinet.
She keeps her Moet et
Chandon in her pretty cabinet
- He said, "But
you don't listen,
"this song's about you."
About me, bubala?
I'm the Queen, me
I'm being Freddie
and I can't have you
and that's killing me.
So I'm the Queen and
you're killing me.
And when you hear the lyric now
now I listen to it
again he was right
'cause I had a
fancy cabinet at EMI
which I kept Moet et Chandon on.
He keeps Moet et Chandon
in his fancy cabinet.
Moet et Chandon
- Hair like Marie Antoinette.
In those days, not now,
look at me now bubala
I got no chance.
I used to go to Sweeny's at
Beauchamp Place in London
I used to have, they
called it a lamaur perm.
Just like Marie Antoinette
- 'Cause I was sort
of Kevin Keegan chic.
Long lamaur like
Marie Antoinette.
- Ah yes, well you're never
too old to learn something.
- Three or four people
have verified it
that Killer Queen
was written about me.
- Gee, I had no idea that
Freddie may have been
infatuated with him.
- Always every time
I saw him he said,
"Oh Eric I wish I could
[hums] you and I love to--"
- Ah it's possible [laughs].
But it would have
been an odd couple
I'll tell you that much.
- It didn't matter that he
fancied me or schmacied me
it was an honor.
- Dear Eric, he doesn't
change, does he?
Guaranteed to blow
your mind anytime
- If you look at the
Top of the Pops video
from 1974 especially, Mercury's
performance specifically
really is a standout moment.
Again this is a moment
when glam rock is massive
and you could almost say
it's kind of coming to an end
'cause with Marc Bolan's
death not far after this
and Freddie Mercury
looks quite androgynous.
His nail varnish,
his longish hair,
he's wearing a fur coat.
He looks quite exotic and
beautiful in a lot of ways
and while most androgyny
plays on a heterosexual man
being like, oh is
he or isn't he?
Mercury is a blatant
bisexual if not homosexual
and I think that that video
I think almost kind of tilts
those ideas of gender roles
on its head more than
anything before it.
- They were impressive
and they were impressive
because of their ambition
and their confidence
especially Freddie's confidence.
- [Narrator] Queen's early
success had now got them noticed
but people weren't sure
what to make of them
especially the press.
Inevitably Freddie was
the center of attention.
- The band, and Freddie in
particular his very flamboyance
if you like invited
negative comments.
- And so this is when
the New Musical Express
famously asked, is
this man a prat?
When he'd said that his job was
to bring ballet to the masses.
- Some people were
incredibly rude about them.
At one point I believe
there was actually
a blacklist of journalists
they wouldn't speak to
because some people
for no apparent reason
just took against them.
- Somebody had obviously
listened to the records
and said, well look at
the state of this lot.
They're pretentious and
this that and the other.
The others three being a
little bit concerned about it
and Freddie said, "Of
course we're pretentious.
"We don't give a
damn, we're fabulous."
- Freddie Mercury
was showbiz, bubula.
He should have been the
pantomime really, you know,
as one of the ugly sisters.
Boy you was ugly Freddie.
I loved you but you were ugly.
- He did not have a
classic pinup look.
- The teeth and everything,
he was no Brad Pitt, bubala.
- the thing essentially with
Freddie was his overbite.
You know, 'cause he
had that overbite.
If you look in all
my pictures of him
you'll see his lips are closed
because he was
very self-conscious
about the overbite
and we made sure that
before I took the shot
his lips were closed
and I remember saying
to him at one point
you know, your money
you can do what you want
but he had these four extra
teeth at the back you see.
I said, why don't you
have them taken out?
And he said, well no he said,
'cause I think that will
affect my palate and my range.
So whether it would
have or it wouldn't have
I haven't got a clue but
that was what he believed
that it would have
affected his voice
and of course he did have the
most extraordinary vocal range
so maybe he was right.
- I think Freddie always
really wanted to give a show.
I think in some ways a lot
of his life was a show.
- I think his sales
were charisma.
- You know, "I'm a
peacock" he would say.
He wanted attention
that's for sure.
- He always stood out.
He had that magic, that sparkle.
- [Narrator] Queen
were now in demand.
They embarked on a world
tour headlining in the U.S.,
Canada and Japan
for the first time
but behind the scenes
there was trouble brewing.
Queen's contract with Trident
was crippling them financially.
- In those days it
was quite typical
for people to be under contracts
that would now be
considered wildly unfair.
- They simply did
not have much money.
They all lived in
relatively small flats
and they probably did struggle
for quite a long time.
Certainly a lot longer
than people thought.
- My favorite quote
as to how they noticed
they were being shortchanged
was when Roger noticed
that one of the managers was
getting a new Rolls-Royce
and the band were
struggling to make ends meet
and they thought, wait a minute.
There's something
not quite right here.
- I guess they weren't
looking too closely
at the fine print
or thinking through
well where would this lead
once it's signed through
a record company.
- They would just sign a piece
of paper put in front of them
'cause they thought, great
I get to make a record.
They don't think about, yeah
and I'm going to tour the world
and not make any money out
of it and get exhausted.
Wait a minute, that's
not in the original plan.
- It left them with
a very bitter taste.
- [Narrator] Their
manager, Jim Beach
wanted the band to sign
with Led Zeppelin's manager,
Peter Grant and with
his production company.
Queen found that
contract unacceptable
and instead hired Elton
John's manager, John Reid.
In 1975 Queen released
their fourth album,
A Night at the Opera.
It would go on to
be voted as one
of the greatest
albums of all time.
- I attended the playback
of the, A Night at
the Opera album.
There we were and we listened
to this album, nice album
and then suddenly
this six minute,
what to call it, comes on.
Is this the real life
Is this just fantasy
Caught in a landslide
- Everyone was in shock
and they'd never
heard anything like it
No escape from reality
- People were divided
about whether it was
genius or madness.
I see a little
silhouetto of a man
- [Narrator] That track
was Bohemian Rhapsody.
When John Reid and
EMI first heard it
they were very concerned.
- I'm told that John Reid
didn't want Bohemian Rhapsody
to be as long as it was.
- In those days the BBC
and various other people
wouldn't play anything longer
than about three minutes.
- We had lengthy
discussions within EMI
about what on earth do
they think they're doing?
It's so long, it's
three records in one.
- And of course it turned
out to be a work of genius.
["Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen]
- Still don't understand it,
still don't understand it.
Mama just killed a man.
Put a gun against his head
pulled the trigger now.
As I'm listening to it it's
a lovely, lovely portrait
of a sad, got a oosh, got
a smoosh, got a goosh.
No, no way.
I said to Freddie,
Freddie I love it.
Not gonna get it played
because we got no chance.
It's like nine, 10 minutes
long originally, no way.
Thunderbolt and lightning
- I was the idiot who said,
why don't we ask
them to do an edit?
And the response was
a couple of words.
Gallileo, Gallileo, figaro
- And of course the
rest is history.
- [Narrator] The band
stuck to their guns
and with the backing of
producer Roy Thomas Baker
took the track to someone
who might listen to it.
- The person who thought
it would be a hit
was Kenny Everett
who was working
on Capital Radio at the time
and it is true that he
played it many times.
I see a little
silhouetto of a man
Scaramouch, Scaramouch
- [Narrator] Having won the
battle with the song's length
the band insisted on doing
the video their own way too.
- At that time we were
making promo clips
on a regular basis.
They would just be
lipsynched miming to a track.
That was really what the music
video business consisted of.
Bismillah, no we will not
let you go, let him go
- With Bohemian Rhapsody, Queen
quite independently decided
that they wanted to do something
that would be mold breaking.
Never let me go
- It was a highly
practical maneuver
because clearly they
weren't gonna be able
to go on Top of
the Pops and do it
according to the BBC
rules which involved
going in and recording
the backing track
in three hours of studio
time that they gave you
and then you'd do a
moody switch of the tapes
to give them the
real backing track
and go in and mime to it.
Oh mama mia, mama mia,
Mama mia let me go
- We knew that what
we would have to do
is give them a video
that would be so fanatic
that they couldn't
refuse to use it.
The band themselves did
the creative work on that
and they came to us
with the request.
We wanna make this video,
it's going to be fantastic.
Bruce Gowers is gonna direct it.
- [Narrator] Mike Mansfield
was EMI's preferred promos
director at the time
but Queen had other ideas.
- No, no, no, no, we're not
doing Mike Mansfield my dear.
We're using Bruce Gowers.
I said, no you're not.
I got a deal with
Mike Mansfield.
Contracted he does
all our EMI videos
from Olivia Newton-John to
Cliff Richard to whoever.
I was paying about
400 pounds a video.
Freddy says, nuh-uh,
we ain't gonna use.
We've had a meeting.
Without me being there?
How dare you have a
meeting without me there
about my budget, my money.
He said, anyway
we've had a meeting
I'm putting in Bruce
Gowers and it's gonna cost
about four or five
maybe at the most.
Well okay, it's a similar
price to Mike Mansfield
four or 500 but I still
don't wanna use him.
No, four or 5000.
I said, four or 5000?
Are you mad?
We can make Gone
With the Wind Two
for four or 5000 in those days.
So you think you can stop
me and spit in my eye
- That was a bit of a gulp.
It was a sharp intake of breath.
- I can remember the aggravation
having rowed with
Freddie Mercury.
But they got their
way and they did it.
- It was the best
money you ever spent
because it changed the industry.
- Freddie said to me,
"Oh we made a short film
"yesterday afternoon
with Bruce Gowers."
Well that short film
happened to revolutionize
the way that music is consumed
because neither MTV
or VH1 would exist
had it not been for
that short film.
- God was I wrong
about that too.
What a schmuck, I don't
know how to make a living.
- Showing it on Top of the
Pops galvanized Great Britain.
The record went to number
one for nine weeks.
- We used to go to the
factory on the morning
pick up the figures
from the night before.
Hello bubala it's Eric here.
So and so how did we do?
Sell record [mumbles].
Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody, 60.
Oh I knew it, I knew it.
I knew it, my biggest
fear has come true.
The kids now are not
buying it anymore
because it's too
long, it's too long.
60, I knew it, I knew it.
60 I can't be sure.
Eric, 60,000, I said, what?
- Only record I promoted
from Cilla Black to Sex
Pistols to schmistles
and Elton John all those.
I've never had a
record sell that much.
It was then 60,000, 80,000.
Biggest daily figure.
I mean if you were 80,000 now
you'd be at number
one for 12 weeks.
In those days well it was just
and I think the biggest
daily figure we had on Queen
probably went about
one day 130,000.
- What he did of course was
make, A Night at the Opera
a huge album.
That enabled them really to
smash through the ceiling.
- [Narrator] Bohemian
Rhapsody was now dominating
radio and television stations.
Queen's status as a
rock band skyrocketed.
They had changed the face of
music and music videos forever.
- I think they set a precedent
that was quickly followed
by a lot of other artists.
- Many artists learned
the lesson and thought,
gee if we could do
something like that.
Didn't mean to make you cry
- [Narrator] Bohemian
Rhapsody would prove
to be Queen's biggest
hit of all time.
The inspiration for and
the meaning of the lyrics
are still debated today.
Freddie always refused
to explain them
apart from to say that they
were about relationships.
- The music itself
was so bizarre
that you had no idea
what the lyrics meant
and really, who cared?
Too late
- Tim Rice the great
lyricist has this theory
that it's an attempt to come
to terms with being gay.
And the relinquishment
of a previous role.
Easy come, easy go,
will you let me go
- It's a good theory.
I never had a chance to
ask Freddie about it.
- Some of it's a
bit tongue in cheek
but it's a great song.
Let him go
Bismillah, we will not
let you go, let me go
- Do you feel that,
A Night at the Opera
is perhaps now you've reached
a climax of a certain stage
in your career?
'Cause I believe it's definitely
the best that you've ever done.
- Thanks, I think it's
possibly the peak so far
because it's the
most successful.
But I mean we hope
we're gonna get better.
- Next time we'll be better.
- It is gonna be
difficult especially
with Bohemian Rhapsody
being as large.
- [Interviewer] Well a kid
wrote me a letter about that
and said I study demonology
and satanic things.
Why did they use Beelzebub?
And I suppose that's
a legitimate question.
- Why did we use it?
I mean why do we use anything?
I mean it doesn't
necessarily mean
I studied demonology and things.
I just love [laughs]
the word Beelzebub.
[all laughing]
Great word, isn't it?
- [Interviewer] Actually
the letter was signed
by the cloven hoof at the time.
- Ah, same sect,
I belong to them.
- We'll be sticking
pins in effigies.
- [Interviewer] The next single
that's coming off,
A Night at the Opera
is You're My Best
Friend, I understand.
And already we're getting
a lot of requests for that
but it's entirely
different in structure
to Bohemian Rhapsody isn't it?
And that's what makes the
album attractive to me.
- This is John's song.
- John wrote that song.
- I mean that's probably
one thing in the group
that we all do write
which lends to the variety
of our albums, you know.
It's a very good thing I think.
- There've been several
songs on your albums
that have been
involved with death
and all this sort of stuff.
Is that just an
accidental thing or?
- [Roger] That's
Freddie's morbid moment.
- One of my docile
moods actually.
Any way the wind blows
- When I first went
to Freddie's home
he was living in a flat
in the Kensington area
with is girlfriend, Mary Austin.
And they had a very
interesting relationship.
They weren't just
boyfriend and girlfriend
and it was a very nice little
flat but it was very small
and I remember crowding in
there with them one night,
we had just come back from a
gig to watch Bohemian Rhapsody
on Top of the Pops.
- This was before he [pops
lips] popped out of the closet.
- [Narrator] Freddie had
been with his girlfriend,
Mary Austin for six years.
But around this time
their relationship ended.
- It was a time of great
experimentation remember.
Between the
chemicals and the sex
and the general lifestyle.
There was battle going
on inside of him.
- He and Mary Austin who he'd
met before any of us knew him.
- Even as she and Freddie
grew apart in some ways
they became the
very best of friends
but their relationship
never really changed.
He just had other
relationships as well.
- He was happy going to certain
clubs in New York, in London,
in France, in Italy full
of young gayish guys
all above age of consent,
of course they were.
- [Mick] I Have
pictures of the guy
that he was hanging
around already.
It was someone he was
having a relationship with
before he finally told Mary.
- She knew exactly what he was.
There was nothing to
hide, he didn't hide it.
If he did hide it he was the
worst hider in the business.
We used to say, Mary
we're going out now.
We're going to the Sombrero
Club in Kensington.
- It's interesting because
I think we definitely
are very familiar with
the tale of the girlfriend
maybe suspecting or
thinking that her partner
might be gay but
still being devastated
when they finally have
their suspicions confirmed.
In the case of Mary Austin
it was actually the opposite.
She was relieved when
Freddie came out to her
because she had thought
that he probably was gay
and it was, I would say
it was some pressure
taken off of her and
now their relationship
could actually be what
it really goes on to be
which is one of the
foundations in Freddie's life.
- [Narrator] Another
year, another album.
Surely another success.
- Very interestingly their
strike rate was not 100%
and they were capable
of doing records
that were just okay.
And indeed the album
after A Night at the Opera
is very much derivative.
First of all it's called,
A Day at the Races
which is another Marx
Brothers film title.
But also, Somebody to
Love, the big single
is also clearly son
of Bohemian Rhapsody.
Ooh somebody
Somebody, anybody find me
- It was like, oh they
found something good
with Bohemian Rhapsody and
they're doing it again.
It's all in context.
But if you space it out a bit
if you have a
greatest hits album
in which it's not the next track
then it sounds more impressive.
He's all right,
he's all right
I just gotta get out of
- But at the time it
didn't sound as impressive
as it does now.
- [Narrator] Undaunted
even after failure
Queen went back to
the studio in 1976
and recorded one of
their all time classics.
News of the World.
- One of the extraordinary
things about Queen
and Freddie was that
they had an instinctive
commercial and marketing nous.
It was staggering how
year-on-year they came up
with something
incredibly serendipitous.
One year it was Killer Queen,
the following year of course
was Bohemian Rhapsody,
then it was We
are the Champions.
We are the
champions my friend.
- I'll never forget
when I first heard it
because I was driving in Vermont
and they played We Will Rock You
["We Will Rock You" by Queen]
going into We are the
Champions as it was heard
at the beginning of
News of the World.
Buddy, you're a
young man, hard man
Shouting in the street, gonna
take on the world someday
- It was like the
entire meaning of life
summed up in five minutes.
I mean all of the elements of
successful rock were there.
We are the
champions my friend
- Brian gave his bit.
We'll keep on
- Freddie gave his bit.
Fighting 'till the end
- And Brian gave
unremitting power.
Rock you
- That closing guitar line by
Brian was immensely powerful
and set everything
and put it to bed
and leads directly into
We Are the Champions
which does a similar
thing through vocals.
I paid my dues
Time after time
- With the lyric,
with harmonies.
The ambitious,
confident statement.
We are the Champions.
We are the
champions my friend
- And to this day all you
have to do at a stadium
is hear [mimics drum
beat] and you know
it's We Will Rock You.
And everyone starts going,
We will, we will rock you
Yeah do it
- Two sport anthems
What an achievement.
- But Freddie had
never to my knowledge
never been to a soccer
match in his life
but he used to like watching
the boys legs on television.
- They had a real knack
of writing anthems
that people would
feel involved with.
Would really get to them,
get under their skin,
take away all their inhibitions.
They could enjoy, they
could waive their arms.
- [Narrator] By the early
80s Queen was undoubtedly
the band to see live.
They repeatedly broke records
including the largest
ever paying audience
for band anywhere in the world.
In Sao Paulo, Brazil
130,000 people watched
an incredible show.
Can barely stand on my feet
- As you see each tour,
because with each tour
they would add a new
dimension of outrageousness
in presentation the audiences
would always respond
to that that kind of thing.
- Freddie was the
ultimate showman.
- In the early days
of popular music
the two greatest stars were
Enrico Caruso and Al Jolson
and that is because both
of them could be heard
in every corner of the
[background music
drowns out other sounds]
without amplification
because they were
working before amplification.
Don't cry Tootsie don't cry
Goodbye Tootsie goodbye
- Freddie's voice can be heard.
Pressure pushing down on me
Pressing down on you
No man ask for
- He would walk out on stage
and he could control the
audience immediately.
There was something about him
and of course especially
a little while later
all of their songs
were anthems in a way.
I don't think I ever met anybody
who came out of a Queen
concert disappointed.
Now perhaps I'm biased
because I suppose in a way
I became a fan.
I tried to be objective,
it's kind of hard.
I think that they just wanted
to do the best
they possibly could
for as much of the time
as they possibly could
and I think they achieved that.
["One Vision" by Queen]
- [Announcer] And the ever
self-effacing Freddie Mercury
made his familiar
timid entrance.
- When you saw Freddie at peak,
certainly this was
true at Live Aid
you actually found
yourself thinking
thank God he's using
his power for good.
Imagine if he was
another Hitler?
I mean you could
understand, oh I get it.
When you have this charisma
and you have a crowd
of 72,000 people and
they're all doing
what you want them to do.
I mean when he does
the Radio Ga Ga
hand claps over the head.
- Everybody.
All we hear is radio ga ga
Radio goo goo
Radio ga ga
All we hear is radio ga ga
- He asks them to repeat
after him [vocalizing].
And they all go [vocalizing]
- They'll do anything he says.
- He could say, get up and
everybody would stand up.
Nobody even thought about
it, they just did it.
["We Will Rock You" by Queen]
Buddy you're a boy,
make a big noise
Playing in the street,
gonna be a big man someday
Mud on your face,
big disgrace
Kicking your can
all over the place
Singing we will,
we will rock you
Yeah sing it
We will, we will rock you
- I think Freddie was a
very affectionate person,
he was a very kind person.
He would always come 'round
make sure people were okay,
check in on people.
He loved kids, he
just liked people.
And if you were a friend
or family of Freddie's
than he was wonderful.
I genuinely think felt
like that about his fans.
He was talking directly to them
and I think that they felt
that and I think that's why
he had such amazing
control over the audience
even if it was just
for those few moments.
He absolutely loved them
and I think it was mutual.
- [Interviewer] You have
a very extrovert stage act
by any standards.
Will you be able to go on with--
- You mean I flaunt it?
- [Interviewer]
You're over the top.
- [Narrator] Despite
a heavy tour schedule
Queen was still
relentless in the studio
creating yet more new sounds
for their growing army of fans.
- Another One Bites the Dust
emerged from the
album, The Game.
There was no guarantee
it was gonna be a single,
the first single was Crazy
Little Thing Called Love.
This thing called love
- But a lot of people including
famously Michael Jackson
noticed the track, said
this has to be a single.
Let's go
Steve walks warily
down the street
With the brim
pulled way down low
Ain't no sound
- It's in the American
chart for 31 weeks
a number one record.
Sells millions, not
just one million.
The thing was unavoidable
for half a year.
Another one bites the dust
- Queen really did rule the
world for a short period.
And another one gone
Another one bites the dust
- [Narrator] Reigning on high,
Queen continued to experiment.
- Then came the
disaster of Hot Space
Look at me
I got a case of
body language
- [Narrator] Hot Space
proved that the band
were drifting apart musically.
They decided to
take some time off
to pursue their
own solo projects.
When Queen came back
together to play at Live Aid
in 1985 it was to be the
performance of a lifetime.
- By the time Live
Aid came around
I had small children
and we had a summer
function in school hall
where we were all
sitting on tiny chairs
and Live Aid was
on and we thought
we wouldn't get anybody there
if we didn't have a television.
So we had a television
on with Live Aid on
and when Queen came
on everybody stopped
whatever they were
doing and watched them
and I have to confess I
did shed a little tear
because they were so amazing.
- Freddie at Live Aid is
probably the best domination
of an audience I've ever seen.
- Everybody's looking
'round saying,
well they've done
it, haven't they?
It was extraordinary.
We will, we will rock you
One more time
We will, we will rock you
- They're stealing the show.
All the artists backstage
who had, of course,
their own egos, their
own sense of pride.
They're stealing the show.
And they were.
Send shivers down my spine
Body's aching all the time
- And you hear the audience
going completely nuts
and you see on the monitor
Freddie doing this
impromptu duet
with the BBC cameraman.
Every night, every day
A little piece of
you is falling away
But lift your face,
the western way, baby
- And everybody said
they stole the show.
It just proved that
they were undoubtedly
one of the best live
bands that's ever been.
- [Narrator] Yet again
they seemed unstoppable.
Sadly it was short lived.
- It's just a key moment
in my life with Freddie
and as a gay person.
In Heaven Night Club in
early 1983 I had returned
from the United
States and I said,
have you adjusted your behavior
in light of the new disease?
'Cause it had no name then.
And he said with one
of his flourishes,
he said, "Darling my
attitude is fuck it.
"I'm doing everything
with everybody."
And I had that sinking feeling.
There literally is
a sinking feeling.
I've had it twice in my
life and that was once
and I just felt at that
moment we're gonna lose Fred.
Who wants to live forever
Who wants to live forever
- And I also thought
that even though
he's putting up this great front
probably in the back of his mind
he thinks it's too late.
Who dares to love forever
- I think most people
knew that he was ill.
I think nobody really
knew what was wrong
or how long he'd been
ill or how bad it was
until pretty much at the end.
- I guess we knew intuitively
something was going on
but it wasn't talked about.
He didn't officially tell us
until just a few months before.
- Now I know that Freddie
did not have a test
until the late 80s and did
not demonstrate symptoms
until the second
half of the 80s.
But remember there was a
10 year incubation period
on average between
infection and symptoms.
So if you were to say Freddie
starts showing symptoms
late 80s, if he were
an average case,
no guarantee that he was but
if he were an average case
he would've been
affected late 70s
which makes sense with
his lifestyle enthusiasms
as he'd conveyed them to me.
Sometimes I get the feeling
- Look at that, Those Were
The Days of Our Lives.
They put out that video
and there he is and you go,
that's not Freddie.
When we were kids,
when we were young
- Oh we knew he
was fucking dying
and so that's a heartbreaker.
Days were endless
We were crazy, we were young
- It's very difficult to
watch those last videos
because Freddie looks so
beautiful and so fragile
and at the end of the, Those
Are the Days of Our Lives
video he actually
looks into the camera
at the very end and
says, "I still love you."
I still love you
- We were sort of trying
to support him through it
and I mean he was incredibly
brave at that time.
- By that time he was
being pursued everywhere
by paparazzi and the
tabloids were speculating
on a weekly basis every
time he was seen in public.
- The strange thing is I
hadn't spoke to Freddie
for about a year or so
but then the reports
were coming through.
He's got AIDS and he's dying
and whatever and he's in bed.
I thought I was
gonna go and see him.
I put it off and I was too late
because by the time the
week or so was gonna come
he was dead.
- On November 23rd, 1991
when the news comes out
that Freddie Mercury has AIDS
I wouldn't say that that
many people were surprised
just because you'd
seen his deterioration
but I think what it drove home
is this was a real disease
and it really, really
would not wash over anyone.
You could be famous and
you still could get it
and that really made it
that much more devastating
when he died the very next day.
- [Narrator] Freddie's death
devastated the music community.
- I mean the death of Freddie
was a big bloody deal.
I mean there was a talent that
was a talent for the ages.
- All the people put
flowers outside his house
and I went there and I
stood like, in the crowd
and I stood there and
have a little tear.
I watched those flowers and
I put some flowers there too.
But I put my sign, gonna
miss you mate, love Sophie.
He knew what it meant.
- It was just unbelievably sad
and everybody just
simply felt that it was
the most colossal waste
because he could still be around
and he could still
be making great music
like so many people are
and he was taken an
awfully lot too early.
- When Freddie died it
was just incredible.
I think it brought home to us
how big and how loved
he was around the world
because from every
country in the world
came these tributes.
- When Freddie died that
was the end of Queen
and it was a long time before
they could bring themselves
to go out again on the road
and Paul Rodgers was a
really interesting choice
because he's got
a wonderful voice
and the concerts
were very, very good.
He was never intended
to be Freddie
and that wasn't what
it was all about.
- It's the end of a
chapter, it is you know.
- We feel that the last
time Queen performed
was in '86 at Knebworth
and that is the last
Queen show as such.
I think that stops with
the exit of Freddie.
It was the transit of
Freddie to another place.
- Freddie was taken
away from them.
- [Narrator] But his
legacy catapulted Queen
even further into the
international rock stratosphere.
In 2001 Queen were inducted into
the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
and their song, We
Are the Champions
was voted the world's
best rock song of all time
in a global music poll.
To date estimated
sales of their albums
have reached over 300 million
making them one of the
world's bestselling artists.
- They were one of the
greatest live bands ever,
ever in this world.
- [Narrator] Accolades for
Freddie continue to pour in
even 20 years after his death.
- It's incredible
how he is more famous
and less critically famous
than when he was alive.
He would love it, he
would be thrilled.
He would be so excited
and in a conspiratorial way
he would say, oh I love this.
You know, he'd have that
little shoulder thing.
- [Narrator] Widely regarded
as one of the greatest
singers of all time
it's not bad for a
boy from Zanzibar.
- Freddie wanted to be a great
diva esque figure, a legend.
And being Freddie
Mercury allowed Farrokh
to be that person.
What a thrill, what
an achievement.
I think it's great.
- This time 'round we had to
have bodyguards all around.
- We did go through
the kitchens though.
- In fact yes and we
were reduced to traveling
in laundry lifts
and things like that
but the price of
fame they tell me.
[somber music]