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In cinemas this week: Rami Malek gets his teeth into role as legend Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody

Bohemian Rhapsody 
Bohemian Rhapsody (Allstar/NEW REGENCY PICTURES)

FEW films have had as troubled a gestation as Bohemian Rhapsody.

In fact, you could say that the movie telling the story of Queen and Freddie Mercury, and named after their most famous song, has been hit by more than its fair share of thunderbolts and lightning.

It’s been a full eight years since Tinseltown first heard talk of a biopic featuring one of the most electric rock ’n’ roll performers.

But now it seems we’re ready for Freddie after a series of Hollywood hold-ups, stars and directors being fired and a band who can’t seem to see that their legendary singer had to be the star of the show.

It’s been almost three decades since Mercury, the flamboyantly homosexual front man, died from Aids-related pneumonia but there was a huge buzz about this project from day one.

And that anticipation hasn’t been diminished by reports of it being caught in what’s known as “development hell” as its production was fraught with studio intrigue and what Hollywood likes to refer to as “artistic differences”.

Back in 2010, Queen’s extravagantly-coiffed guitarist Brian May announced that Sacha Baron Cohen had agreed to play Mercury in a film about the band.

Yes, Ali G was going to play the star of Live Aid.

That wasn’t as ridiculous as it sounds and people began to respond favourably to the idea of the chameleon-like Baron Cohen strut his stuff in full ’tache and skintight white jeans get-up.

The movie was to be scripted by Peter Morgan who’d been Oscar-nominated for both The Queen and Frost/Nixon, two fantastic films based on real events and people.

May said of Baron Cohen: “Sacha does seem perfect. He is passionate about playing Freddie.”

But almost immediately he also let it be known that he was uneasy about how much the picture would focus on Mercury’s promiscuous, party-animal lifestyle.

So it was little surprise when Baron Cohen walked out on the production in 2013, after claiming that he’d been told by a member of Queen – “I won’t say who” – that his character would “die in the middle of the movie”.

Rami as Freddie Mercury (Allstar/NEW REGENCY PICTURES)

Mystified why a film that should so obviously concentrate on Mercury’s story would see him depart just halfway through, the actor asked what the rest of the film would depict and was dismayed to be told: “We see how the band carries on from strength to strength.”

In other words, Queen were more interested in promoting their post-Freddie career and Baron Cohen was convinced no one would pay to see such a film.

With the film kicked into the long grass the actors said to be pencilled in to play Freddie included Ben Whishaw, the voice of Paddington, and Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe.

The screenwriter was also switched, while director Dexter Fletcher didn’t last long amid more rumours that he’d disagreed with the band about how much of Mercury’s debauchery should be included.

Fletcher was replaced by X-Men director Bryan Singer who himself lasted barely a year before he was fired for “unreliability and unprofessionalism”, whereupon Fletcher returned to compete the film.

Amidst all this chaos, at least one sound decision seems to have been made.

Rami Malek was cast as Mercury, the Egyptian-American actor’s heritage echoing the roots of the man born Farrokh Bulsara to Indian parents in Zanzibar before moving to England in his teens.

Malek, who you might know as the Pharaoh Ahkmenrah from the Night At The Museum movies, has been widely praised for his role as a computer hacker in the TV series Mr Robot.

And he admits that while his acting impressed the band members, having that signature “austere” Mercury jawline didn’t hurt either.

As for Mercury’s other notable physical trait – the prominent teeth that earned him the nickname “Bucky” as a child – Malek says he tried to keep his fake teeth in for most of the shoot, save for lunchtime when his make-up artist insisted he pop them out.

Malek added: “Every moment where there was a challenge on set, I just asked myself, ‘What would Freddie do?’ and I guarantee he would’ve seen it through.”

Let’s just hope it will rock you.

Bohemian Rhapsody (12A) is in cinemas now