'Bohemian Rhapsody' Premiere Relied on a Secret Sound Mix to Re-create Queen's Iconic Concert

The film wraps up with a nearly 20-minute concert performance of the band's 1985 Live Aid show in London, and sound pro Paul Massey had to scramble to tailor a one-use-only mix for the film's bow at Wembley Arena.
FOX

Fox's Bohemian Rhapsody wraps up with a nearly 20-minute concert performance, revisiting Queen's iconic 1985 Live Aid turn at London's Wembley Stadium. The filmmakers worked tirelessly to re-create the sound of that day, then had to create a fairly secret second mix that was used only once.

The sound for the climactic scene began with the original material from Queen's performance. Then, recording mixer and music mixer Paul Massey worked toward creating "an acoustic stadium feel" but not just through electronic means. When Queen (with frontman Adam Lambert) played London's O2 Arena in July, "I managed to get two hours of time with no audience and have all of the songs played through the Queen PA at full level," Massey says. "We mic'd all around the stadium."

He also was able to use the summer Queen concert to finesse the crowd sounds. "Brian May stopped the concert at one point and said, 'Who would like to be in the film?' So we had 10,000 people doing a single clap and then another and another."

After putting this painstaking work into the mix, Massey was thrown a curveball when he was told the film's October world premiere would be at the SSE Arena at Wembley in London. "It's huge, I believe 12,000 seats," says Massey, who realized he'd have to take out all the stadium effects he had so carefully added to the mix. "Otherwise, it would just be a big reverb wash going on at the premiere because we'd be playing back something that was including stadium reverb and then that stadium itself was going to create its own reverb."

He went back and mixed a "drier" version of the film with "much less reverb, much less slap." The only time that mix was played for an audience was at the world premiere. "One time only," says Massey. "It was very good of the producers and Fox."

This story first appeared in a January stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.