Sunday, June 16, 2024

“Bohemian Rhapsody” NYC Premiere: Less Than Six Degrees Connect Judy Garland to Freddie Mercury


Yes, it’s true. We can connect Judy Garland to Freddie Mercury in less than six degrees. We can also connect “A Star is Born” to “Bohemian Rhapsody.” How’s that, you say?

Well, it’s all through Judy’s gifted and beloved singer daughter Lorna Luft, who made a surprise appearance last night at Fox’s swell NYC premiere for “BR” at the Plaza Hotel. And I mean it was swell. I’ve never seen the Plaza fitted up so well for a movie premiere.

But Lorna Luft! What was she doing there? She’s in town promoting a book she’s written about “A Star is Born” called “Judy Garland and the Film That Got Away.”

Judy Garland, of course, was the star of the classic 1954 version of “A Star is Born.”

So why’s she at the premiere? Turns out her best friend is Anita May, wife of Brian. That’s Brian May from Queen, Brian May who wrote so many hits with the group, was their founding member, and comes off like a totally nice guy in “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

So take that in for a minute. Lorna loved “Bohemian Rhapsody” when she saw it last night. And yes, I asked her about sister Liza Minnelli, how is she, etc? “She’s very well,” Lorna said. The two sisters are finally living in the same city– Los Angeles– and are very close, not just geographically.

The great actor Jared Harris came to the premiere with his bw Allegra Riggio. Allegra is friends with another Queen wife but they got a bigger surprise when the song “MacArthur Park” was presented in the film as an example of a hit record longer than six minutes. Jared’s famous actor father, Richard Harris, sang that hit record in the 1960s. It was a hit by accident, Jared told me. “It was the B side of another song, but a deejay flipped it over and played it. And it took right off.”

Rami Malek is the undisputed star of “Bohemian Rhapsody.” “Playing Freddie Mercury has changed my life forever,” he told me. “It’s been such an an incredible experience. Changed it not just for a hundred years or a thousand years, maybe a million years.” He should get an Oscar nomination out of this, easily. His performance is not an imitation. And guess what? He played a lot of the piano in the movie. In a key scene, Freddie is lying on the ground under a piano and plays the keyboard supine, unable to see the keys. It was Rami actually doing it! He was very sheepish when I asked him, but proud. “Yes, there’s a lot of me playing piano.”

Last: congrats to “Downton Abbey” actor Allen Leech. He’s terrific as Freddie’s lover/manager/ betrayer Paul Penter. Leech, well known as Branson, widower of Sybil on “Downton.” is getting married this January in Santa Barbara to actress Jessica Herman. She’s lovely. “We’re bringing in over 100 Irishmen to Santa Barbara,” Allen told me. “Should be quite the party!”

Leech just wrapped the “Downton Abbey” Movie two days ago. “I flew right here from the set,” he told me. “It’s a beautiful movie, you’re going to love it.” I did everything I could to get some spoilers from him. He laughed, and said, “Maggie Smith is alive and well at the end!” I gasped. Then he added quickly: “Or maybe not! You’ll have to see!”

And the late lamented Sybil? “She,” he said, “is still dead.”

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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