UPDATED with backstage comments: 20th Century Fox’s Bohemian Rhapsody, the long-gestating musical biopic homage to the rock band Queen and its frontman Freddie Mercury, punched its ticket as a frontrunner in the Best Picture Oscar race by winning the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Drama on Sunday.
One award earlier in the night, Rami Malek took the Best Actor – Drama prize for playing Mercury in the film, a passion project of producer Graham King that went through several ups and downs on its way to the screen, including at one point having Sacha Baron Cohen attached as Mercury.
King, who did the talking in the acceptance speech, thanked Malek, the cast, the crew and the band for helping get the film made, then saved his final hat-tip to Mercury, one of rock’s iconic frontmen who died of complications from AIDS in 1991.
“To Freddie Mercury,” King said onstage. “Thank you for showing us the power of embracing your true self — this one’s for you.”
Bohemian Rhapsody‘s victory over a stacked and diverse field came at the end of a night in which Universal’s Green Book took the Best Picture – Musical or Comedy trophy. The two films were among only three to score multiple wins in a Globes where the Hollywood Foreign Press mostly spread the love on the movie side — Green Book topped all titles with three wins (Picture, Screenplay and Supporting Actor for Mahershala Ali), while Roma (for Foreign Language and Director for Alfonso Cuaron) joined Rhapsody with two wins each.
The other Motion Picture – Drama nominees were Disney/Marvel’s Black Panther, Focus Features’ BlacKkKlansman (both shut out overall on the night) Warner Bros’ A Star Is Born (winning Original Song for Lady Gaga’s “Shallow” among its five noms); and Annapurna’s If Beale Street Could Talk (winning for Regina King’s Supporting role among three total noms).
Bohemian Rhapsody is currently on its way to making close to $200 million at the domestic box office, and sits at $743 million worldwide. Backstage, the team did get questions about some of the middling reviews the film received originally, and their thoughts on the matter in the wake of their great night.
The gist of their answer: There never was another option for them to make the fun concert version of Mercury’s life versus the warts-and-all version Baron Cohen wanted to make.
Said Queen member Brian May, the pic’s executive music producer: “The mistake that critics made was reviewing the trailer instead of reviewing the film. They jumped to conclusions. Once people stake their claim, it’s hard for them to withdraw.”
Last year, the Globes in this category went with Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, which beat out eventual Oscar Best Picture winner The Shape of Water. Beale Street director Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight won the year before on its way to the Oscar.