The cast of Bohemian Rhapsody had pretty big shoes to fill in the 2018 biopic. Mr. Robot's Rami Malek, Jurassic Park's Joseph Mazzello, and EastEnders Ben Hardy were incredible versions of Freddi Mercury, John Deacon, and Roger Taylor respectively. Now meet the mind-blowing actor behind big-haired guitar legend Brian May, Gwilym Lee!
Gwilym Lee as Brian May
Bristol-born actor Gwilym Lee was under an extraordinary amount of pressure to mold into Brian May's legendary shoes for the biopic Bohemian Rhapsody. He already had a fairly successful career in Land Girls, The Tourist, and as "DS Charlie Nelson" in the ITV hit series Midsomer Murders.
He was also an accomplished theatre actor in Oedipus, Versailles, King Lear, and Jude Law's Hamlet. Then he took on the role of a lifetime as guitarist Brian May in the long-awaited Queen biopic. He told Discover Music, "I think one of the hardest challenges in this film was to try and live up to the legendary status of Brian May, but also of the music."
Luckily for Gwilym, he was able to receive advice directly from the source, Brian May himself! He told the Press Association when he met Brian: "The first thing he did, he walked into the rehearsal room and just came straight up to me. He didn't say a word. He just went 'Oh, come here' and gave me a big old bear hug. From that moment we just thought 'We've got his blessing' and it really alleviated any sense of pressure."
Brian gave Gwilym very deep insight and advice into himself, "Really Tiny little details, you know. Brian used to play with a sixpence, a little coin, and he used to talk about what side of the coin he'd strike the strings with, things like that."
Brian himself was impressed with how well Gwilym adapted to his character. According to his interview with MetalHeadZone, "All the time we were together he was clocking me. He was absorbing what I was doing unconsciously. He's absorbing my mannerisms, my body movements, the tone of my voice. He just became me."
Anita Dobson, Brian May's wife of over 20 years was also shocked at the resemblance! "It was like looking at Brian when I first met him. It was very strange. They're the same height, they've got quite a lot of similarity in the face and once he put the curly jet black wig on, looking at him was quite bizarre!" She told The Mirror.
Gwilym truly dedicated himself to the role, "You don't want to let people down. I've worked harder on this film than I've worked on anything because of that. Just the amount of hours that went into voice, movement, playing the guitar, that was a huge challenge for me. Probably the biggest challenge I think."
Jurassic Park star Joseph Mazzello also felt the same pressure and recalled a special moment when the surviving members of Queen watched one of the Bohemian Rhapsody rehearsals. "We didn't even know the songs but they wanted to come and watch the rehearsal. We were terrified of them seeing us but it was the exact opposite of that because they were so warm and they were so encouraging, and they were rooting for us."
The group's acceptance of the actors made them feel much more at ease, "We felt immediately that it wasn't judgment, it was encouragement and like literally, we are standing there, we’re doing the songs and Brian May has a cell phone out recording us. He's like he's our fan! It was just the most surreal and cool thing to be a part of."
Now Gwilym has a lifelong friendship with Queen's Brian May! We can't wait to see what Gwilym brings to the table next!