Although it has a bevy of awards to its name and made almost $1 billion at the box office, Bohemian Rhapsody has faced quite a bit of criticism. The aspect of the film that has perhaps received the most criticism is the editing, particularly in the scene where Queen first meets manager John Reid, played by Mr. Chaos is a Ladder himself, Aidan Gillen. And that scene has been held up as evidence that Bohemian Rhapsody did not deserve all of its many accolades.
The scene, which was the subject of a viral video that garnered millions of views, was mocked for the seemingly haphazard way it was edited-- with extremely rapid and jarring cuts. The film’s editor (and composer) John Ottman, who won an Oscar for his editing, is well aware of the criticism of the scene and in a recent interview he dropped an F-bomb over it. John Ottman said:
In fact, I went to Fox the other day and had them fire up the Avid and all the media. Because I wanted that scene how I originally cut it. So someday I’m going to do a fucking dissertation and show ‘here’s how I cut it originally, and now here’s what happens when too many cooks get in the kitchen and are paranoid about pace’
Wow, John Ottman might have earned an Oscar for his trouble, but he is clearly still frustrated at how that scene turned out and the ensuing backlash, which has naturally landed on him as the film’s editor. As he told Epicleff Media’s Score: The Podcast, he was so frustrated that he actually went back in the editing bay just to recut the scene and see it again how he originally intended.
That seems to be the major source of frustration for the Oscar winner. He has spoken before about how the scene makes him want to put a bag over his head and the reason for that is that it is not what he wanted it to be. He is not proud of that scene because, as he said, that is not how he originally cut it.
John Ottman may have been the editor on Bohemian Rhapsody but that doesn’t mean that he had complete and total authority on how the movie was cut. Although he went on to say that the director change was not the culprit behind the scene, John Ottman was still constantly getting notes from the studio about the edit.
John Ottman admits was the final cut of that mocked patio scene was his, the result of “too many cooks”, and notes from the studio that forced him to shave down the scene. The studio was worried that the first act was getting too long and it wanted to maintain the pace of the film without slowing down for the scene where Queen meets John Reid.
Describing the effect that had on the scene, John Ottman said:
I took the original version that I cut and all the nuggets and cool things in it we wanted to preserve…so I kept hacking it down, hacking it down, faster, faster, faster, cut things out of it. But if there’s a look or something you want to keep it in there. So what happens is by trying to keep all the old stuff in, but having the scene be half the length, it made it too fast.
So what happened was John Ottman had to take a scene that was much longer, and edit it down with quicker pacing-- all while maintaining pivotal elements of the original scene. The end result of those somewhat opposing objectives is the action-movie/montage pacing of the mocked patio conversation scene.
Around Oscar time there was talk that John Ottman basically saved Bohemian Rhapsody in the editing room and given what he said here, I’d be very curious what his ‘Editor’s Cut’ of the film would look like. It seems unlikely we’ll ever get that, but maybe one day he’ll get to do his “fucking dissertation” on the effect studio notes and too many cooks can have on a movie.
While that scene may always be a thorn in John Ottman’s side, he still was a big part of a massively successful movie and he got his first Oscar out of it, so I’d say it’s a net win.
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