Bohemian Rhapsody Changes The Timeline Of Freddie’s Battle With HIV
In Bohemian Rhapsody, Live Aid is a hugely important time in Freddie’s life. Not only does he start a relationship with Jim Hutton and come out to his parents, he discovers that he has HIV. Freddie soon discloses this to his band-mates, and they decide to give their all in the upcoming concert.
Whilst rumors that Freddie was ill were circulating in the tabloids of that year, he wasn’t actually diagnosed with the virus until 1987. Furthermore, he didn’t immediately make Queen aware of his condition. Though they had suspected he was ill, it took Freddie at least two years to inform them, and only went public with the news in November 1991.
Additionally, many viewers have assumed that one of Queen’s most soulful hits, “Who Wants To Live Forever”, was written in response to Freddie’s affliction. After all, Bryan Singer chooses to play this song in the moments where Freddie comes to terms with the deadly illness. In actuality, Brian May composed the song for Highlander, a cult film that depicts battling immortal warriors. Moreover, the heartfelt, wistful Queen song plays as the death-defying protagonist, Connor MacLeod, watches his wife succumb to old age. This movie wasn’t released until a year after Live Aid, and a year before Freddie was diagnosed with HIV.
Queen Were Legendary At Live Aid – But Didn't Save It
The Live Aid section of Bohemian Rhapsody is a scintillating, crowd-pleasing triumph. With Rami Malek channeling the outrageous energy of Queen’s beloved singer, it’s a powerful and visceral way to experience their music. Certainly, given how relations between Freddie and the band had progressed – in the film at least – it appears that it pulled Queen back from the brink.
Most of the hype that is bestowed upon Queen’s Live Aid performance in the film is undoubtedly warranted. Their set is still ranked as one of the best live shows of all time. Shortly after they had performed, Elton John even lamented that they had stolen the show. However, it wasn’t quite the last-ditch attempt at unification that it’s made out to be.
Sure, Queen was not at their strongest in the run-up to Live Aid. Their output had slowed somewhat, although they continued to tour throughout 1984 and 1985. In turn, they faced a massive backlash for breaking a United Nations-sanctioned boycott and playing gigs in apartheid South Africa. Nevertheless, by the time that Live Aid came around, they were still a functioning musical group.
Plus Bohemian Rhapsody shows scenes where no one is donating to the cause until Freddie Mercury took to the mic. Considering that many contemporary superstars (such as David Bowie, Elton John, Paul McCartney and many more) were playing at the event, its highly doubtful that this was the case. As such, the shots of Bob Geldof (Dermot Murphy) watching in relief and gratitude as the money piles up is a touch of exaggerated artistic licence which rather oversells the moment.
What Happened After The End?
Bryan Singer's biopic of Queen closes with lingering shots of Live Aid 1985. Although in real life, this was not the end for Queen. They still continued to make critically acclaimed songs until mere weeks before Freddie passed away in 1991. During that six years, Freddie and Jim Hutton remained together, despite Hutton being diagnosed with HIV as well. Hutton passed away in 2010. Mary Austin still lives in Freddie's mansion, which he bequeathed to her in his will.
But what of the remaining Queen members? Well, as the last title cards revealed, they formed the Mercury Phoenix Trust to tackle AIDS worldwide. Aside from several concerts through the 1990s - which included the Bejart Ballet in Paris in 1997 - John Deacon has since retired from music altogether.
Yet that hasn’t stopped Brian May and Roger Taylor from continuing their legacy. Since Deacon quit, they have toured with Paul Rogers as their lead vocalist between 2004 and 2009. When they subsequently parted ways, American singer Adam Lambert was recruited to form Queen + Adam Lambert. The new group is still touring to this day and they have teased that they might record new music together soon.
Musical historians and Queen fans may baulk at Bohemian Rhapsody’s frequent muddling of their song releases, and its occasional deviance's from their history. Nonetheless, audiences may get a sense of what the band was like in their heyday and be reminded of how heavily Queen have influenced modern music. There’s an argument to be made that Bohemian Rhapsody fails to give its iconic lead singer the attention and depth he deserves. Yet as it stands, you’d be hard pressed to find any movie that exhibits the power of Queen’s marvellous music as well as Bohemian Rhapsody does.
- Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) release date: Nov 02, 2018