BHOEMIAN RHAPSODY - aLL THE LOCATIONS
From its official release date, the success of Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) seems unstoppable. The enthralling biopic about Queen, their music and the unforgettable Freddie Mercury directed by Bryan Singer and Dexter Fletcher was the biggest box office hit in Italy in 2018 and it does not stop buying up prizes in the whole world. Candidate to five Academy Awards, the film tells the band's first 15 years until Live Aid iconic performance in 1985. The film boasts an exceptional cast: Rami Malek plays Freddie Mercury in a surprising way, not to mention the incredible resemblance of the actors who play the other members of the band: Ben Hardy and Joseph Mazzello respectively as Roger Taylor and John Deacon while Gwilym Lee seems almost Brian May’s twin brother!
The design, costumes and settings of the film were a key element in representing one of the most iconic rock bands ever. Production designer Aaron Haye teamed up with formidable professionals to create a really special film external appearance: director of photography Tom Sigel; costume designer Julian Day and makeup designer Jan Sewell, are just a few big names.
Brian May, Roger Taylor and Peter Freestone, who was Freddie Mercury's personal assistant for 12 years, gave a great contribution. Aaron Haye tells us that it is thanks to the access to the private archives of Brian May - who keeps every single ticket, poster, album and has even made available to the production company some original Queen clothes – that it was possible to bring on the big screen a sense of realism and the right settings.
The shooting of the Bohemian Rhapsody took place mainly in the UK, in various areas of London, and just a small part was shot in Germany and in the USA. There is really a lot of film locations we found and, while we let you discover them, we tried to respect - as much as possible - the chronological order of events as they appear on the big screen. Of course we end with Live Aid unforgettable performanc…"are you ready for this?".
EALING ART COLLEGE
In Bohemian Rhapsody set designer Aaron Haye transforms Bromley Town Hall in Tweedy Road, in south-east London, into Ealing Art College, where Freddie Mercury studied Design. The Smile concert scene was shot right inside this 1906 red brick building.
The scene of the conversation among Freddie Mercury, Brian May and Roger Taylor after the concert was shot in the inner courtyard of the building.
Bromley Town Hall interiors were also the set for the scene at the clinic where Freddie Mercury goes to find out about his diagnosis
... and for the shooting of Queen's concert at Budokan in Japan where Freddie Mercury wears the famous white butterfly wing tunic designed by Zandra Rhodes. To recreate these live scenes some of the musical equipment of the time were made available by CH Vintage Audio in Northwich, which owns the largest collection of vintage audio systems in the UK. You will hear again about them soon because they have provided materials also for "Rocketman", the film which is opening this year on Elton John’s life.
After meeting her for the first time at a Smile concert, Freddie looks for Mary at Biba, the iconic London store that opened in 1973 in a seven-story building on Kensington High Street, one of London most famous shopping streets.
In the film the exteriors are those of Wallis House, an Art Deco style building built between 1936 and 1942 north of Brentford, in that part of the Great West Road called Golden Mile due to the high concentration of Art Deco-style factories.
The scene when Freddie Mercury finds himself in the women's section of Biba was shot into Hornsey Town Hall, a public building in the heart of Crouch End, north of London. As we will see later this same building was used also for other scenes of Bohemian Rhapsody.
As soon as it opened, Biba became one of the most visited tourist attractions in London, thanks to its design inspired by old Hollywood charm and its Art Deco style. Soft light, mirrors and peacock feathers everywhere were a distinctive shop feature. Each floor had its own extravagant and peculiar design: from the children's floor to the famous Rainbow Room, a 1930s-style restaurant with a vast elliptical ceiling with gigantic coloured lights, that was also the set for Brazil (1985) by film director Terry Gilliam and the video "Blue Jean" by David Bowie. Today, unfortunately, Biba multi-coloured Rainbow Room has been transformed into a white fitness centre and the building houses offices and shops such as Marks & Spencer and H&M.
FREDDIE AND MARY APARTMENT
Production designer Aaron Haye said he worked closely with band members and tried to keep as faithful as possible to their memories in creating the look of the film, paying close attention to details. Freddie Mercury and Mary Austin in the early 70s lived in London in an apartment at 100 Holland Road in Kensington. In 1973, Doug Puddifoot had a photo shoot of Queen at Freddie and Mary's apartment and it is precisely from these photos that the wallpaper motif on the house walls in the film was taken
THE BULSARA FAMILY HOUSE
The shooting of the street where Freddie Mercury lived with his parents, Bomi and Jer Bulsara and his sister Kashmira, were filmed on Malyons Road in Ladywell, in the London borough of Lewisham, southeast of London.
The real house where the Bulsara family moved to from Zanzibar in 1964 is actually located at 22nd Gladstone Avenue in Feltham (west London). Some shooting took place in this house where Freddie Mercury lived with his family, but the film crew had to stop filming due to the loud noise of planes from nearby Heathrow airport. However the scenographers, as Ray Edward - the present owner of the house tells us, have used the layout of the original house to rebuild the interior.
In September 2016 this small terraced house obtained the English Heritage blue plaque. Both Brian May and Freddie Mercury's sister, Kashmira Cooke, attended the event.
Out of curiosity: in the scene where young Freddie Mercury unloads bags from a plane at Heathrow airport, the old control tower - known for its red brick facade and white radar dome - is clearly visible behind him.
Since 1955, the iconic nine-story tower no longer exists, in fact it was demolished in 2013 to modernize and expand the airport. Freddie Mercury actually worked at Heathrow, not as a baggage handler - as we see in the film - but in the facility where meals served on planes were prepared.
It is Hammersmith Bridge, a beautiful suspension bridge that crosses the river Thames in west London that serves as background to the first meeting between Queen and John Reid. The sequence begins with Freddie Mercury, wearing an unforgettable white jacket, coming out from the pub Rutland Arms, located at 15 Lower Mall in Hammersmith. In the film this winged leather jacket makes the other members of the band laugh and say "you look like an angry lizard!" and apparently, according to Julian Day (the film costume designer), it was found in Jimi Hendrix’s apartment when he died.
Queen began recording the popular Bohemian Rhapsody on August 24, 1975 at Rockfield Studios, the recording studios near Monmouth, in Wales. In the film, Rockfield Farm footage was actually shot at Stockers Farm, in a protected area south of Rickmansworth, in Hertfordshire. The farm is located on the Grand Union Canal and is made up of picturesque traditional brick farm buildings and wooden barns with red clay tile roofs, 20 meters high and classified of historical and architectural interest. This place was used both for filming the band's rooms and the recording studio. The set designer turned a 200-year-old barn into a recording studio from the '70s, building a recording booth where the mixing desk (looking almost out of a Star Trek episode!) was built from scratch, inspired by the one at Basing Street recording studios in London.
THE GARDEN LODGE
Garden Lodge was Freddie Mercury's home in Kensington. A very beautiful Edwardian villa surrounded by lush gardens in the middle of the city: it was his hideaway and he left it to Mary Austin, who still lives there.
A must visit for every true Queen fan, it was a very important place in the history of Freddie Mercury and, as stated by Karen Everett, CEO of FilmFixer (who managed all film services) "it's always a challenge when you shoot in places and situations that the audience believes to know well". The filming of Garden Lodge took place in a private house at 14 Ashcombe Avenue in Surbiton, a suburban neighbourhood in south-west London, Surrey.
Aaron Haye did not try to replicate the interior design completely, but preferred to recreate its atmosphere and we think he succeeded because, when Peter Freestone saw the set of Garden Lodge for the first time, he said he felt just like at Freddie's house.
The Garden Lodge that appears in the film is full of references to the history of Queen with specific and precise details. In the opening sequence of Bohemian Rhapsody, Freddie Mercury goes out from this house passing in front of a large painting depicting Marlene Dietrich at the time of "Shanghai Express". As many of you probably know it was precisely a picture of Dietrich, with lights illuminating her face from below, that inspired the photo for the famous Queen II album cover.
In the Garden Lodge party scene two girls appear in their underwear on bicycles, a clear reference to the cover of the single "Bicycle Race" (1978), notorious for the sleevework featuring exactly a fat-bottomed girl in her underwear on a bicycle.
The recording studios we see in the film have been reconstructed at Gillette Studios in London, modern film studios located inside the Art Deco style Gillette Building, built in the 30’s along the well-known section of the Great West Road called "Golden Mile".
Among the recording studios that have come to life in the Gillette Building is the Munich recording studio where Freddie Mercury recorded his solo album in the 80’s.
The set for the recording studio of Queen's first album, where the band records "Seven Seas Of Rhye" in the film, was inspired by the famous Trident Studios in London. Located in the heart of Soho at 17 St Anne's Court, Trident Studios have welcomed many legends: from the Beatles to David Bowie, from Elton John to the Queen.
The studio that in the film is the background to the recordings of "We Will Rock You" and "Another One Bites the Dust" was modelled by production designer Aaron Haye on Studio One of the famous Abbey Road Studios.
Queen recorded "We Will Rock You" in 1977 when Freddie Mercury, contrary to what appears in the film, did not have a moustache yet. The band recorded the song at Wessex Sound Studios, recording studios located inside the Church of St. Augustine at Highbury New Park, a place famous for hosting famous bands like Sex Pistols, The Clash and Rolling Stones. Written by Brian May, the song has no drum sound, the rhythmic beat of the feet that is heard was recorded using the wooden planks floor of the church, thanks to the collaboration of all the people who were present in the Studios those days.
The legend of Wessex Sound Studios tells of a meeting/clash between Freddie Mercury and Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious, both in the studios to record their albums. Apparently, Sid Vicious tryed to provoke a fight and turned to Freddie Mercury saying "have you been successful in bringing ballet to the masses?". The leader of Queen, calling him "Simon Ferocious", replied in a tone "What do you think you're doing? Make sure you cut yourself in front of the mirror today because tomorrow you'll start doing something else". Freddie Mercury had it right. While in 1978 Queen were still one of the most popular rock bands, Sex Pistols broke up the following year, after a disastrous tour in the United States.
THE USA TOUR
The scene when Freddie Mercury slams his manager John Reid out of the limousine, although it is set in New York, was actually filmed in London on Union Street, Southwark.
All the shooting regarding concerts that appear in the script until 1982 took place at LH2 Studios at Park Royal in north-west London. The famous lighting system of Queen (nicknamed “pizza oven” due to the heat it created) was recreated on a large stage built on purpose. Aaron Haye explained how, thanks to a modular system with several levels and steps, they could easily switch from the set design for Madison Square Garden in New York to the Rio de Janeiro one.
RAY FOSTER’S OFFICE
Ray Foster, the elusive EMI discographer who refuses to publish Bohemian Rhapsody is actually a fantasy character played by an unrecognizable Mike Myers. His cameo with wig, beard and goggles and the joke "no one will shake his head in the car listening to this stuff" is nothing more than a reference to the epic scene from "Wayne's World" (1992) when the protagonists hear Bohemian Rhapsody in their car at full blast shaking their heads!
The film's production designer tells that for Ray Foster's office they looked for a place suited to the atmosphere of the '70s and from where one could actually throw a brick to the downstairs window. The choice fell on Hornsey Town Hall, a ‘30s Art Deco building in Crouch End, north London. Over the years, this building has been the protagonist of TV and film productions and a concert venue. Queen themselves, when they were not famous yet, played here on the 19th of February 1971 as a support band.
The scene where Queen throw a brick into Ray Foster's office was shot in the square in front of Hornsey Town Hall, near the circular fountain.
In the second part of the film there is a brief frame of the two famous bell towers of Frauenkirche, the cathedral of Munich (Germany) where Freddie Mercury goes to record his solo album. Production designer Aaron Haye reports that to shoot the Munich sequences in Freddie's house, they looked for something as similar as possible to Germany, ending up in Esher, a city in south London, in a beautiful house from the '70s.
The band rehearsals before Live Aid were filmed at Air Studios on Lyndhurst Road, in the north-western suburb of Hampstead, London. Founded by the legendary Beatles producer George Martin when he quit EMI, they are located in the nineteenth-century Lyndhurst Hall converted church since 1991. Important pages of rock history have been written here and the Studios are used also to record film soundtracks. The music of films like "Dunkirk" (2017), "Interstellar" (2014) and "The hidden thread" (2017) all came out from he
In reality, to get ready to their best Queen had several days of rehearsals at Shaw Theater at King's Cross in London, where they chose and perfected the lineup for the concert.
Filming the crowded pub of people watching Live Aid on TV took place inside The Griffin pub on Brook Road in Brentford. In 2005 the pub had already been used as location for the shooting of the film "Hooligans" (Green Street).
Wembley Stadium, home to Live Aid, has changed significantly since the 13th of July, 1985. Opened by King George V in 1923, it featured Victorian-style facades and characteristic twin towers, 38-meter-high white towers that bound the entry to the main tribune. Despite a historical-architectural restriction, the stadium was demolished in 2003 and replaced with the current Wembley Stadium. It is therefore only thanks to the help of digital effects that the old Wembley Stadium with its symbolic white towers can live again on the big screen.
IL LIVE AID
Live Aid is the heart of Bohemian Rhapsody, not surprisingly the film begins and ends with the epic performance of Queen on stage at Wembley Stadium. On that 13th of July, 1985, almost two billion viewers in 150 countries witnessed the most important rock event of the 80s. As Elton John declared in an interview, on that day Freddie Mercury stole the show from everyone else with a performance that many have called one of the best rock performances of all times.
Unable to shoot the Live Aid scene in the real Wembley Stadium, the production of the film opted to recreate a stage with the same size as the original one at Bovingdon Airfield, an airfield at Bovingdon, in Herfordshire, formerly the location of many other films such as "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" and "Fast & Furious 6". While, for obvious reasons, Wembley Stadium with its 70,000 spectators were recreated digitally, the set up of the stage was incredibly detailed to reproduce the real one faithfully. From the gigantic scaffolding towers to the lighting, from musical equipment to beer and Pepsi glasses seen above Freddie Mercury's piano.
Freddie Mercury's personal assistant, Peter Freestone, acted as consultant for the film and his description of the Live Aid backstage helped Aaron Haye and his team to create an authentic atmosphere. Peter Freestone was baffled by the authenticity of the set. "It was a moment of déjà vu," he said. "The first time I saw the set I could not believe it, it's exactly the same size, everything was fine, from the stage to the backstage to the peeling paint and the rust coming down from the water pipes. goose bumps".
It seems incredible, but the first scene shot by the protagonists of Bohemian Rahpsody was precisely the Live Aid one! To shoot those 20 minutes of film it took a whole week of filming and to be ready to recreate the concert, Rami Malek Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy and Joseph Mazzello did six weeks of rehearsals working with movement director Polly Bennett and studying movies of the event. Malek said he saw Live Aid movie 1.000 times!
Considering that billions of people saw Live Aid, Julian Day had to recreate meticulously the costume of each member of the band. Adidas and Wrangler reproduced the same thin sole shoes and the same jeans worn by Freddie Mercury on that day. Reproducing the white vest, which should be neither too narrow nor too wide, was not easy. It was Rami Malek himself who suggested some changes to the first costume designer who ended up lowering the neckline of the top by half a centimeter, making it more similar to the one of Live Aid.
In the film there is a cameo by Adam Lambert, the present singer of Queen. He plays the truck driver with whom Freddie Mercury has a one-night stand during a stop of his tour in America.
Brian May has generously lent some of his original outfits to the production of the film, such as the red robe with his name on the back that we see in the video of "I want to break free" and a white leather jacket with straps that - as Gwilym Lee says - was so massive that he was forced to turn sideways to cross the doors!
The designer Zandra Rhodes, who had created the iconic white dress with butterfly sleeves for Freddie Mercury, was called to create the same costume for Rami Malek. She said that it had originally been adapted from a wedding dress that Freddie had fallen in love with during a visit to her atelier.
For the hotel suite in Rio de Janeiro, recreated inside the Gillette building in Brentford (used also as a set to recreate the Top of the Pops and Capital Radio studios) production designer Aaron Haye took inspiration from Freddie's apartment in New York; Peter Freestone tells us that it seemed like a hotel because Freddie had never taken care of its furniture.
Freddie often called home while travelling and asked to talk with his beloved cats. The scene in the film when he asks Mary Austin to pass him Tom and Jerry on the phone corresponds to reality. Peter Freestone says that "his cats were his family" and that he had at least 10: Dorothy, Tiffany, Tom, Jerry, Delilah, Goliath, Lily, Miko, Oscar and Romeo.