The curse of the Queen biopic…. Bryan Singer fired from directing Bohemian Rhapsody following on-set clash

Another one bites the dust

Freddie Mercury of Queen, 1982 Tour at the Various Locations in Oakland, California (Photo by Steve Jennings/WireImage, BA)

Director Bryan Singer has departed the much maligned Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, dealing another blow to a production which has encountered numerous roadblocks since it was first announced in 2010.

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According to The Hollywood Reporter, the film’s producers, 20th Century Fox, terminated Singer’s contract amid rumours of clashes with lead Rami Malek and reports that the director had failed to show up to work on several occasions. There had been signs that all was not right last week, when production on the project was halted, with Fox citing Singer’s “unexpected unavailability”.

“Bryan Singer is no longer the director of Bohemian Rhapsody,” Fox said in a statement on Monday.

Singer, however, disputes that his troubles with Malek had a significant hand to play in his removal from the project, and criticised the studio for refusing to allow him time off to attend to a “gravely ill parent”.

“I wanted nothing more than to be able to finish this project and help honour the legacy of Freddie Mercury and Queen,” the director said in a statement, “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.”

“Rumours that my unexpected departure from the film was sparked by a dispute I had with Rami Malek are not true.  While, at times, we did have creative differences on set, Rami and I successfully put those differences behind us and continued to work on the film together until just prior to Thanksgiving.”

Regardless of who you believe, it marks yet another difficulty in the making of the Queen biopic. Here is every bump in the road the project has encountered over the years. You may want to take a deep breath before diving in.


September 2010 – Queen guitarist Brian May announces in an interview with the BBC  that Ali G star Sacha Baron Cohen is lined up to play Freddie Mercury in a biopic about the band, produced by Graham King and written by The Crown creator Peter Morgan. Sounds great, right? Not so fast…

May 2011 – May expresses concern for the film’s direction, adding that he wants to ensure that Mercury’s legacy is not harmed in the process

July 2013 – Sacha Baron Cohen exits the film, citing creative differences with the band. Deadline reports that Cohen had envisioned a “gritty, tell-all” account of the singer’s life, while Queen were more interested in the PG version. Taylor later confirmed to Mojo that the band had felt the Borat star “wasn’t right in the end”

September 2013 – Peter Morgan tells the BBC that the film is “probably not going to happen” after Cohen had pulled out

December 2013 – Ben Whishaw joins the project as Cohen’s replacement, with Kick-Ass director Dexter Fletcher also signing up to direct. Phew. Surely that’s all wrapped up, then?

March 2014 – Nope. Fletcher is out as director, also citing creative differences.

August 2014 – Ben Whishaw tells Time Out that the project is “on a back-burner”, citing script issues. Hold on, so the script isn’t sorted yet either?

November 2015 – Theory of Everything writer Anthony McCarten throws his hat into the ring, signing up to have a stab at the script. The project gets its name, Bohemian Rhapsody. Deadline reports that Whishaw is not contractually tied down to the film.

August 2016 – Cohen tells US radio host Howard Stern that he had pulled out of the film because one of the members of Queen told him that Freddie Mercury – who died of AIDS-related pneumonia in 1991 – would only be present for half the film, the latter stages taking place after his death, showing “how the band carries on from strength to strength”. Yikes.

November 2016 – It’s all change for Bohemian Rhapsody, as Mr Robot star Rami Malek joins as Mercury, and Bryan Singer signs on to direct.

1st December 2017 – Production is halted, with 20th Century Fox citing Singer’s “unexpected unavailability”.

5th December 2017 – Singer is released from the project, leaving it up in the air once again.

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Bohemian Rhapsody is due to be released in UK cinemas in December 2018