It's a real challenge facing the team behind Bohemian Rhapsody. When telling the story of iconic singer/songwriter Freddie Mercury, how do you choose which moments to focus in on? The movie spends a lot of time on Live Aid, and the creation of Queen's legendary "Bohemian Rhapsody" track. But one collaboration -- that with David Bowie on the chart-topping "Under Pressure" -- is never discussed. When we interviewed Bohemian Rhapsody producer Graham King, we asked if he ever thought about casting a Bowie, and he clarified:
No. There was a lot of public talk about I had that version [of the script]. But there wasn't. There was never a version... I didn't want a Bowie lookalike in the film. And it wasn't about them two getting together and recording a song. It was more about when to put the song ["Under Pressure"] in the right place. And even up until the end, we were wrestling with putting it right at Munich there, and having it play throughout the firing of Paul Prenter.
In my own humble opinion, "Under Pressure" is the greatest pop song ever written. Naturally, you'll disagree, as no two people can actually agree on what's the greatest pop song ever written. But Queen's collaboration with David Bowie on the 1981 track off the album Hot Space is the ideal showcase for Bowie, Mercury and the musical talents of Queen.
"Under Pressure" also was a staple of Queen's set lists since the day that they composed it. The song was the band's second No. 1 in the UK after "Bohemian Rhapsody" -- giving it almost as much weight as the song that gives the new movie its title -- and Queen played it in concert repeatedly from 1982 onward.
Graham King is correct that the song is played in the background of a key scene later in the movie, one focusing on Paul Prenter (Allen Leech), Mercury's one-time manager (and lover) who eventually betrayed Freddie's trust and reputation to the press.
But it's a background choice, a famous tune played beneath a scene, and we never got a version of Rami Malek's Freddie Mercury trading falsettos with a stand-in David Bowie. Ah well, perhaps it will appear in the eventual Bowie biopic that I'm sure Hollywood will plan (following this movie, and the Elton John film Rocketman that's reaching theaters in 2019).
Here's Bohemian Rhapsody producer Graham King discussing the choice to leave David Bowie out of the Queen film:
Even without Bowie, Bohemian Rhapsody goes to great lengths to capture what made Queen special, both in the studio, and on the stage. Bryan Singer follows the musicians along the journey to recording some of the band's most famous tracks, and then restages the Live Aid concert that might go down as their most iconic performance, with the eyes of the world on them.