Freddie Mercury Predecessor Has No Hard Feelings Over ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ Fictionalization
Tim Staffell – the singer in the the ‘60s band Smile whose departure paved the way for Queen’s formation – said he had no hard feelings over the way his part in the group's timeline was fictionalized for the multiple Oscar-winning movie Bohemian Rhapsody.
Staffell and Brian May co-founded Smile before the frontman quit in 1970, deciding the band had no future. That allowed Freddie Mercury to become part of the lineup and reach international fame alongside May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon.
“They did a pretty good job with the expediency of telling a story that was 15 years in real time and condensing that into two hours,” Staffell recently told Esquire. “I have no trouble at all with the need to develop a screenplay that creates the right emphasis and the right dependencies. As long as the emotional charge is retained, then it's fine.”
Some viewers have criticized the script for a number of factual inaccuracies, including the suggestion that Mercury knew he had AIDS during his performance at Live Aid, when in truth he didn’t know until two years later.
“I would've had the same view of how to condense it,” Staffell said. “Maybe slightly different details, but I thought it was the right way to do it. At the end of the movie, there's a poignancy to Freddie being aware that he had AIDS, during the triumph of Live Aid. Of course, that's unrealistic. It didn't happen like that, but that was the right note to end the film on.”
Another detail that was ignored was that Staffell, played by Jack Roth, and Mercury were good friends. “We were in the same year at art school,” said Staffell, who appeared on the Bohemian Rhapsody soundtrack and is working on a new solo album. “We were taking the same course. The thing about Freddie was, he always had an unshakable faith in himself. People would say that he was shy, but deep down he had this absolutely unshakable faith. He used to say that he was gonna be a superstar someday.”
Watch Tim Staffell's Departure From Smile in 'Bohemian Rhapsody'
On the subject of the split, which is presented as an unhappy interaction in the movie, Staffell said his "departure from Smile was completely amicable. I began to want to play music that was more improvisational. I was drifting towards listening to jazz and blues. The movie has used artistic license to depict the departure, but it wasn't really like that. … Freddie joining the band was very natural, as he was really good friends with the band members before I left and simply dovetailed in.
“I just said to them, 'Look guys, I've already gone for some auditions,' and I said, 'I'm not happy with this anymore and I don't think it's gonna work out.' How wrong could you be?”