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Lucy Boynton on playing Freddie Mercury's muse in Bohemian Rhapsody

2018-11-30 12:53
Actress Lucy Boynton.

Cape Town - Lucy Boynton stars as Mary Austin, the woman who was Freddie Mercury’s “muse,” in Bohemian Rhapsody, the eagerly awaited biopic about the legendary Queen frontman now showing in SA cinemas.

Lucy sat down for a Q&A about her role, starring alongside Rami Malek and what it was like meeting the band members from Queen. 

Could you tell us about Mary Austin and the part she played in Freddie’s life?

Not many people know a lot about Mary and from what I understand of her I think that would actually please her. She’s apparently always been a private person so she never found the spotlight she was put in, by extension of Freddie, too comfortable. And yet I’m always surprised when people aren’t aware of the great presence she was in his life. After being in a romantic relationship for six years, and getting engaged, they then became each other’s greatest allies and he was quoted saying she was the only person he really trusted in the world. If you know anything beyond the surface of Freddie you know about Mary. 

So, when she met the band they had yet to hit the big time?

Absolutely, she was there from the beginning. She met Brian May first when he was playing with the band Smile, and it was Brian who introduced her to Freddie when he joined the band and Queen was subsequently formed. It’s a really fun element of the film, getting to see them in their earliest days together, when they were still finding their sound. 

That’s a big arc to play. Was that part of the attraction? 

Yes, I didn’t know much about Mary and I actually didn’t know much about Freddie when I first read the script. I was born in 1994 so Brian May had always been my association with Queen. So, to get to discover these remarkable people in such a uniquely personal way, as the film allows you to, was very special. 

You mentioned that you didn’t know a lot about Mary before reading the script. What research did you do?

So much was, of course, there in the script but when playing a living person I think you have a duty to research and prepare in a different, conscious way. When you’re playing a fictional character there’s a freedom to take them anywhere or as far as you collectively see fit, moment to moment. With a real and living person you of course have more boundaries to respect, especially with someone like Mary who I know has always been so private. I watched her interviews to try and gauge what she was happy to be open about and spoke to Brian a lot about her and Freddie. It was really moving to hear all the loving things he had to say about her and them.  

So, it’s more a character inspired by?

Having to make creative decisions in order to continue the narrative of the story is a slightly weird thing to make peace with when you’re playing a real person. Mary has spoken publicly about her life with Freddie but not in depth regarding some of the intimate moments we had to portray in this film. So, for those moments it’s always creative interpretation rather than a claim to know what she felt or speak on her behalf. 

You mentioned that you met Brian May. I’m assuming you met Roger Taylor too. What was that like? 

It was really bizarre (laughs). It was very surreal. At this point I’d spent so much time with the guys in full hair, make up and costume that you kind of have it set in your mind that they are the band so when the real people walk in the room it all becomes strangely close. And when you see Brian and Roger standing there you can kind of picture Freddie there and suddenly it’s much more real and close and personal and quite moving. They came to the set very frequently which was a gift. It must have been so strange for them to see their younger selves replicated in that way but they were so encouraging and supportive and so generous. 

How did you approach working with Rami Malek? Did you meet up before filming started?

We actually only met about a week before we started shooting. We met at Abbey Road Studios, which is the coolest thing to claim (laughs). That’s my favourite thing to tell people! I’ve driven past it so many times so to get to be in the car that pulls into that driveway and especially to go in there for work was just...something else. It’s like a religious building with its musical history. Walking in those doors made me so aware of the voices and talents who had walked those same halls and filled that space… I can’t quite describe it.  I’m also a huge Beatles fan so, of course, it’s like a religious space. I have no coherent description, just this ear to ear grin.

Lucy Boynton and Rami Malek.

What do you think audiences will take from the film? And do you think a younger audience will connect with this story? 

It’s an inspiring story told in a really energising and invigorating way so I hope the audience walks away feeling uplifted. Freddie was such an extraordinary person and seemingly without intention he transcended the rigidity of labels and the need to define oneself and that will never not be encouraging and important to see, especially now. His extraordinary talent is obvious but the film gives you such a great sense of that wit and playfulness and passion. Whether you’re familiar with Queen and their music or not I think we could all do with a dose of that Mercury energy and moxie right now.

Sum up what it was like to make Bohemian Rhapsody…

It’s changed my world. To be connected to the world of Queen, this very special entity and such pivotal players in musical history. To be part of telling this story about such good people and great, influential minds and to do so alongside all of these wonderful humans, was an incredibly impactful experience. 

READ NEXT: Rami Malek explains how he dug deep to find Freddie Mercury

(Photo: Getty Images)

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