The long-gestating biopic about legendary rock group Queen is officially without a director, with The Hollywood Reporter reporting that Bryan Singer has been fired from “Bohemian Rhapsody”. The film’s studio, 20th Century Fox, confirmed the firing in a terse statement: “Bryan Singer is no longer the director of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’.”
Singer’s sacking comes on the heels of Friday’s announcement from the studio that production was halted “due to the unexpected unavailability of Bryan Singer,” with a statement declaring that the director’s unavailability was due to “a personal health matter concerning Bryan and his family.”
According to THR, however, the firing of Singer (known for directing several “X-Men” movies) “reflected a growing clash between Singer and actor Rami Malek,” who’s playing Queen frontman Freddie Mercury in the biopic.
The source of that “clash,” reports THR, stemmed from Singer reportedly going AWOL from the set on several occasions, which necessitated cinematographer Thomas Newton Sigel stepping in to direct on the days that Singer was a no-show.
Singer’s continual absence from the set led Malek to complain to the studio about the director’s “unreliability and unprofessionalism,” while a source tells THR that co-star Tom Hollander (who plays Queen manager Jim Beach) was become so frustrated with Singer’s behaviour that he quit (he was later persuaded to return).
“The growing tension led to a confrontation between Singer and Malek, which, while it did not become physical between the two did involve Singer throwing an object,” reports THR, adding that the two later “settled their differences” and that “filming was expected to resume.”
Singer had reportedly been warned prior to production by top studio execs that “they wouldn’t tolerate any unprofessional behaviour on his part,” with a rep from the Directors Guild of America brought to the film’s London set in order to “monitor the situation.”
When Singer didn’t show up on the set after the Thanksgiving break, adds THR, the studio saw this as “the final straw” and made the decision to terminate him under his “pay-or-play” contract.
With two more weeks of principal photography remaining, 20th Century Fox is expected to hire a new director within the next few days; Deadline reports that “word around town” held that even before the firing, the studio had been having “discreet discussions” with potential replacement directors.
Meanwhile, another “insider” tells THR that Singer claimed to be “suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder because of the tensions on the set.”
According to Deadline, production will likely stay on hiatus until the new year, although the studio is hoping things can resume earlier than that.
Following Fox’s announcement, Singer issued a statement of his own, denying reports of friction with Malek while stating he needed “to deal with pressing health matters concerning one of my parents.”
“With fewer than three weeks to shoot remaining, I asked Fox for some time off so I could return to the U.S. to deal with pressing health matters concerning one of my parents. This was a very taxing experience, which ultimately took a serious toll on my own health. Unfortunately, the studio was unwilling to accommodate me and terminated my services. This was not my decision and it was beyond my control,” Singer said in his statement.
“Rumours that my unexpected departure from the film was sparked by a dispute I had with Rami Malek are not true. While, at times, we did have creative differences on set, Rami and I successfully put those differences behind us and continued to work on the film together until just prior to Thanksgiving,” he continued. “I wanted nothing more than to be able to finish this project and help honour the legacy of Freddie Mercury and Queen, but Fox would not permit me to do so because I needed to temporarily put my health, and the health of my loved ones, first.”
On Wednesday, Dec. 6, the studio announced that Dexter Fletcher will step in to direct the remainder of “Bohemian Rhapsody”. Fletcher — whose acting credits include “Stardust” and “Kick-Ass” — made his directorial debut with 2011’s “Wild Bill”, and most recently helmed “Eddie the Eagle”, the biopic about British ski-jumping curiosity Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards.