DON’T STOP ME NOW

GWILYM LEE PASSES THE CHAR­AC­TER TEST IN QUEEN MU­SI­CAL

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Gold Coast Eye - - MOVIES - WORDS: SEANNA CRONIN

Por­tray­ing a real-life rock star is a dream come true for Gwilym Lee.

The Bri­tish actor plays Queen’s lead gui­tarist Brian May in Bryan Singer’s big-bud­get biopic chart­ing the band’s me­te­oric rise to fame, near im­plo­sion and tri­umphant re­union on the eve of Live Aid. In this Q&A, Lee talks about work­ing with Rami Malek, who trans­forms into lead singer Fred­die Mer­cury, and the ad­vice he re­ceived from May. Q: How ex­cit­ing was it when you dis­cov­ered you’d landed the role?

A: I was com­pletely over the moon, it’s a re­ally great gig for me. Also, there was the thrill of play­ing an iconic char­ac­ter in an iconic band. Queen are loved by so many peo­ple and the band is so close to peo­ple’s hearts; it is a real hon­our to be help­ing to tell their story. It’s a big re­spon­si­bil­ity, but at the same time it’s a great op­por­tu­nity. You know, it’s every kid’s dream to be a rock star – or pre­tend to be a rock star. Q: What was it like work­ing with Rami?

A: Rami is in­cred­i­ble as Fred­die. He never let the role over­whelm him. He’s very gra­cious and po­lite, the per­fect lead­ing man re­ally. He just set the tone on set and was so cour­te­ous. He may have gone home and felt in­tim­i­dated, but he was very pos­i­tive on set. He was full of en­ergy, en­thu­si­asm and joy. And that is one of the defin­ing things about Queen – their joy. They don’t take them­selves too se­ri­ously. Rami brought that

at­ti­tude to the set with him. His per­for­mance was a cel­e­bra­tion. Q: How did you de­pict Brian May?

A: I started with what you see on the out­side, by look­ing at his man­ner­isms, the way he speaks, the way he moves and his ges­tures. Then I let all that form the in­te­rior of the man for me. For in­stance, Brian is ac­tu­ally quite softly spo­ken and he’s in­cred­i­bly ar­tic­u­late; he’s a very in­tel­li­gent man. I started to think, ‘What does that say about his per­son­al­ity and his char­ac­ter?’ It led me to think­ing that he has to wear his in­tel­li­gence quite gen­tly. He’s a PhD as­tro­physi­cist; he is in­ter­ested in stereo­scopic pho­tog­ra­phy and in an­i­mal wel­fare. He’s a fas­ci­nat­ing in­di­vid­ual. So I looked at the ex­te­rior of the man and how that forms him as a char­ac­ter. For ex­am­ple, I knew that he was very metic­u­lous. I’d read sto­ries about him in the record­ing stu­dio be­ing re­ally de­tailed and metic­u­lous, some­times to the an­noy­ance of his band mem­bers I’m sure! I think that his gen­tle ex­te­rior some­how soft­ens his hard in­tel­li­gence. Q: Brian came on set, what as­sis­tance and ad­vice did you get from him?

A: The things he sug­gested to me were re­ally use­ful and prac­ti­cal. I re­mem­ber we were film­ing the Bo­hemian Rhap­sody guitar solo when I’m in the record­ing stu­dio. The cam­era was on my close-up and the en­tire crew went silent all of a sud­den be­cause Brian ap­peared. Af­ter­wards they said, ‘Oh my gosh, that must have been ter­ri­fy­ing hav­ing the main man on set.’ Ac­tu­ally it wasn’t, be­cause as soon as the take was fin­ished, he came over and con­grat­u­lated me. Q: We hear Queen’s mu­sic in the film?

A: Yes, they use the ac­tual tracks and we’re play­ing along to the mu­sic. By the end of the film there were a cou­ple of scenes where we did ac­tu­ally plug in and play, be­cause by then we were get­ting a lit­tle more con­fi­dent. When we were re­hears­ing we some­times plugged in as well, be­cause it’s re­ally im­por­tant to hear your­self play­ing and have that con­nec­tion with all the mem­bers of the band. You don’t get the con­nec­tion if you’re con­stantly mim­ing. So we did re­hearse live a few times just to get that au­then­tic feel­ing.

Bo­hemian Rhap­sody opens on Thurs­day.

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