Bohemian Rhapsody defied odds — and lackluster reviews — to become a box office hit and win four Academy Awards. Now, as it happens when Hollywood stumbles onto a moneymaker, they’re ready to cash in even more on the legacy of Freddie Mercury, the bisexual HIV-positive Queen frontman, and potentially make a sequel.
The remaining members of Queen, who oversaw the 2018 box office smash, are reportedly in talks to bring Mercury back to the big screen with a Bohemian Rhapsody sequel, Page Six reports. Rudi Dolezal, who directed several of the band’s videos and was friends with Mercury, said that the band and manager Jim Beach are in talks to do a sequel that begins with Live Aid, the 1985 concert where Rhapsody ends.
Rhapsody ends in 1985, six years before Mercury died of pneumonia. But because Rhapsody plays extremely fast and uncomfortably loose with the facts of Mercury’s life, a sequel will be difficult to attempt — and guess what, they shouldn’t! For one thing, the film changed the date of Mercury’s HIV diagnosis from 1987 to 1985 and manufactured a storyline where Mercury was forced to apologize to his bandmates for taking a break from the band to record a solo album, not to mention treating his status with the subtlety of a sledgehammer. None of that really happened: Mercury was not the first one of the band to release a solo album. He was actually the third, after Roger Taylor and Brian May.
Rhapsody can’t even handle the fairly straightforward details of a timeline. How can we trust the same crew to handle the final years of Mercury’s life, where he dealt with increasing speculation about his status while in a relationship with his longtime partner Jim Hutton?
Hollywood has shown again and again, and underscored the point in 2018, that queer people of color are not in control of their legacies after they die. Rhapsody painted over Mercury’s legacy with broad strokes, punishing him and forcing him to apologize for his own sexuality. Green Book told a story about Dr. Donald Shirley, a brilliant, Black, queer classical pianist — through the lens of his white, racist driver. (To add insult to injury, the driver’s son, who has a history of anti-Muslim tweets, got to tell the story.) And straight actors got to bring the year’s queer roles — Mercury, Shirley, the women of The Favourite — to life.
Given Bohemian Rhapsody has made almost a billion dollars and reaped in the awards, there’s no reason for Hollywood to think it has a lesson to learn. Bohemian Rhapsody 2 will probably happen. Mercury’s legacy will make some executives a ton of money. Even if it means that legacy gets remixed and trampled in the process.