The drums of “We Will Rock You” had Hollywood’s well-dressed elite on its feet from the opening beat, and “We Are the Champions” kept them smiling and head-bopping. Finally, a giant image of the late Freddie Mercury hovering over the stage got the crowd back to standing.
The Oscars steered clear of topicality, snark and in-jokes for this year’s opening, opting instead to rock out with a 42-year-old song made famous by a man who died 28 years ago. With Adam Lambert fronting what remains of the original Queen – guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor – the band performed “We Will Rock You” and “We Are The Champions.”
Without a host to star in a Billy Crystal-style clip montage, charm attendees like Ellen DeGeneres or insult them like Seth MacFarlane, producers opted instead to present everybody’s new favorite old band.
Following the songs-instead-of-monologue gambit, the show slightly hedged its bets with Amy Pohler, Tina Fey and Maya Rudolph – presenting the first award of the night, for Supporting Actress – making a few not-necessarily-the-opening jokes: Tonight’s show, they said, would not have a host, would not have a “popular movie” category, and Mexico is not paying for the Wall.
As for that actual opening, Queen, of course, is the subject of director Bryan Singer’s Bohemian Rhapsody, a Best Picture nominee and the most successful rock biopic in Hollywood history. On the Oscar stage, Lambert (who had a small blink-and-miss-it role in the film) subbed for Freddie Mercury, played in the movie by Oscar nominee Rami Malek.
Here is the video:
Lambert has been touring with Queen since 2011 – they connected a couple years earlier when the band joined super-fan Lambert during his star-making American Idol season.
Queen’s Oscar-connection to Hollywood is, obviously, Bohemian Rhapsody – the biggest music biopic in movie history, with a take of more than $854 million worldwide – but the band’s ties to the screen go deeper: More than 60 movies have used Queen songs, most notably (till the Mercury biopic, anyway) 1992’s Wayne’s World, which sent “Bohemian Rhapsody” back onto the music charts. Some others: Revenge of the Nerds (1984, “We Are the Champions”), Ella Enchanted (2003, “Somebody to Love”) and Iron Man 2 (2010, “Another One Bites the Dust”). The 2004 Documentary feature nominee Super Size Me included “Fat Bottomed Girls.” And 2006’s Best Animated Feature, Happy Feet included “Somebody to Love,” covered by Brittany Murphy.
Baz Luhrmann’s 2002 Best Picture nominee, the musical Moulin Rouge! included Queen’s “The Show Must Go On,” covered by Nicole Kidman and Jim Broadbent.
The appearance of Queen as tonight’s Oscar openers has been a badly kept secret that last couple days: