‘Rocketman’ Director Dexter Fletcher’s Last Job? Saving ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’
When the Elton John biopic Rocketman is released next month, director Dexter Fletcher’s name will take pride of place in the credits. However, that’s not the case with his previous role of finishing Bohemian Rhapsody, the Queen movie that won four Oscars, several other awards and taken nearly $900 million at the box office.
Fletcher was called in with just weeks of principal photography remaining after Bohemian Rhapsody’s producers realized they had no option but to fire Bryan Singer, the director who’d run things so far. Details remain unclear, but a breakdown in confidence had begun to occur over a period of months, forcing the change. Despite the dispute, Singer retains the sole director’s credit as a result of Directors Guild of America rules, while Fletcher got an executive producer credit.
Even more remarkable was the fact that Fletcher had actually been signed up as the movie’s director in 2013, but dismissed after a disagreement over creative direction. “It was an extraordinary set of circumstances,” Fletcher told IndieWire last year. “We got quite far down the line with my version of Bohemian Rhapsody, which unfortunately, never came to fruition. When there was a gap to be filled… the producers got in touch, because they knew I knew the material and I’d been involved.
“They sort of said, ‘Look, this is a film that needs to be finished,’ and they trusted me with that responsibility. I came into the last few weeks of principal photography and editing and the bits and pieces like that.” He said he regarded his position as “watching what had been already created and being part of that” and “to not ignore… what had been already been achieved.”
Fletcher, 53, began his career as a child actor in England before later appearing in Guy Ritchie movie Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and HBO’s Band of Brothers. He began directing in 2011 with the crime comedy Wild Bill, and went on to work on 2013 musical Sunshine on Leith and 2016's sport biopic Eddie the Eagle.
“When Dexter came on and brought his energy, that guy, he must have ten coffees a day, because he is the most wonderful man,” said Joe Mazzello, who played Queen bassist John Deacon in Bohemian Rhapsody. “He’s got the greatest heart and the biggest voice and just like made us pumped up and excited to come to work. … A lot of the scenes he did were some of the playful fun scenes near the beginning of the film and so it was really good. Everyone played to their strengths.”
Watch the 'Bohemian Rhapsody' Trailer
Editor John Ottman was in the strange position of having to continue work without longtime associate Singer. He told Deadline: “[Fletcher] was there for a short time because obviously he wanted to come in and go over the scenes that he’d shot… he just obviously wanted to see what I had done with his scenes. He also shot a couple of sequences in the recording studios – not the early ones, but the ones sitting together, ‘Another One Bites the Dust’ and ‘We Will Rock You’ – just when they’re kind of talking about putting the songs together. … [H]e just wanted to get a general overview of how his scenes were being integrated in the film. And he had his notes on the flow of the film and then he went off to do Rocketman.”
Star Rami Malek, who won an Oscar for his depiction of Freddie Mercury, wouldn’t say much about his experience with Singer other than that it had been “not pleasant, not at all.” He helped Fletcher complete the movie by taking on much of the leadership role himself. “It was an immense responsibility for me,” he told the Express and Star. “I felt like I was running on a highly confident level at times. And so we all raised our games, day in and day out.”
Ahead of Bohemian Rhapsody’s release, Fletcher said he didn’t feel the director’s credit was too important. “I think the film stands on its own merit, and that’s what really should be important, I think. I didn’t get into it for that reason… I was just proud to be able to be a part of it and help complete what I think is a great film. That’s what I got involved for.”
He repeated those sentiments in a later interview, telling The Four Oh Five: “I think everyone’s going to be amazed at Rami Malek's amazing performance… it's a tour de force piece of work, and similarly I get to start Rocketman on Monday. That again is going to be a completely different kind of film but equally exciting, and I get to work with another fantastic actor called Taron Egerton, who's going to amaze people with not only his acting ability, but his singing ability as well. I count myself as being extremely lucky and excited about both the projects.”
Watch the 'Rocketman' Trailer