Interview med Allen Leech (Paul Prenter) fra “Bohemian Rhapsody”

I forbindelse med frigivelsen af “Bohemian Rhapsody” på dvd, Blu-ray og UHD har 20th Century Fox stillet nedenstående interview/Q&A med Allen Leech, der spiller Paul Prenter, til rådighed for publicering. Interviewet bringes på engelsk!

“Bohemian Rhapsody” udkommer den 18. marts!

Allen Leech is an Irish actor who rose to fame on the back of his role as Tom Branson in the historical drama series Downton Abbey. He made his acting debut with a small part in a 1998 production of A Streetcar Named Desire, made his first major film appearance as Vincent Cusack in Cowboys & Angels, and earned an Irish Film & Television Awards nomination in 2004 with his performance in Man About Dog. He played Marcus Agrippa on the HBO historical drama series Rome. In Bohemian Rhapsody he stars as Paul Prenter, Freddie Mercury’s personal manager and one-time lover…

Was your dad into Queen when you were younger?

Absolutely. Both my parents, and my dad especially. Whenever we went on family trips he was the guy who was driving and he would be in charge of what we would listen to, of course. So from the age of five I was listening to Queen. There was that famous Greatest Hits album and that is what we used to listen to as we drove along and I always remember looking through the cassette sleeve. I used to look at all the lyrics so I was very aware of their music. And I loved it. As a kid I really loved things like Bicycle Race.

Were you able to find much footage of Paul Prenter when doing your research?

No. And whenever you read about Paul Prenter he always seemed to be a bit of a malevolent force. He was always around. Freddie described him as a ‘fruit fly’ at one point. He always seems to be on his shoulder, whispering. At the start, Freddie genuinely trusted him because they were both gay men who were alone. And Paul Prenter was already very much involved in the underground gay scene and he introduced Freddie to this whole other world that he had been hiding from. Suddenly, this guy gave him access to it, to men, to drugs, to everything. And then it turned because Freddie’s star began to go on this meteoric rise and Paul became the access. Paul controlled the access to Freddie. He let you in or out and that was the power that Paul had. There were so many times when the band tried to talk sense into Freddie. At Freddie’s 30th or 31st birthday you see him there controlling people who come up and walk away. Paul is always at his shoulder. It is really interesting. There’s only one bit of him ever speaking into camera and he says, ‘I don’t think that Queen will be around when they are 60.’ It is a very short interview.

Is that what is shown on TV in the movie?

It is not the interview that is in the movie. That was actually improvised by me. I was trying to use quotes that he put into newspapers because it was in print rather than on TV. The interview I saw wasn’t in the movie. That scene in the film when he was on TV was poetic license. But he did do an interview and said, ‘I don’t think that Queen will be around when they are 60.’ And then he said, ‘I certainly will be,’ and he actually did not make it to 60. It is interesting though and you end up asking thing like why did he make those decisions? Why did Paul decide to do these things? Why did he cut the band out? He was a heavy druggie. Freddie gave him access to that, a limitless supply of that. And also at the time, it is not like it is now. There were far fewer rock bands and there were not as many successful, world-famous stars and yet Freddie was one of them. It was only when he got fired that Freddie realized that Paul had no interest in the music or of taking care of him. He was only in it for himself and Freddie fired him. The fact that he wasn’t that into the music or taking care of Freddie is shown when he turned to The Sun newspaper and said, ‘Here’s the story. Oh, and he has got AIDS by the way.’

Do you feel there was a transition in your presentation of Paul from when he entered the movie to when he leaves it? He helps Freddie in that scene at the farm…

I hope so; that is what I wanted. I didn’t want him to be just the one-dimensional jerk. I wanted to show at the start how interested he was in the music and how he was really trying to be helpful and it was only as it went on that it changed. There is that scene of them when they were in the farm, recording A Night At The Opera, and there’s the moment he says, ‘I know who you are, Freddie Mercury.’ And from that moment it helps Paul because they have a secret. It’s then that Freddie starts to look like him and Paul takes him to the clubs.

When do you think Freddie became an important icon for the gay community?

I think after his diagnosis. I wasn’t around at the time but you do feel that even at those birthday parties — and there’s an ode to that with the party in the movie — there is an inner circle that loved him and exalted him in that way. He was already a kind of icon among the gay scene. Then I think it became something else when he passed away. A lot of people at the time didn’t know he was gay, and a lot of people didn’t know about the fact that he had AIDs. And suddenly if someone of his stature could be put in this situation, it took a bit of the fear out of it. At the time people were terrified of HIV. His death gave a lot of awareness to it as well. At the time it was called the gay cancer in San Francisco, when it first erupted.

Do you think he broke down barriers? Plenty of conservative people loved Queen and then found out that this rock icon was gay…

I think that you are dead right. Everyone was saying, ‘Aren’t Queen wonderful,’ then you find out that he was gay and later on people said that he was bisexual. But, either way, it definitely gave people the opportunity to say, ‘Look at this person who is loved by the world and he is gay. Maybe I can be too.’

When you researched Paul, where did you find the best source material?

Books mainly. I went through nearly every biography written about Queen and of Freddie and found bits there. Peter Freestone [Freddie’s former assistant and friend], who was on set a lot, was a great help because he knew him. He was around at the same time and Brian and Roger talked about him. But, as Roger says in one documentary, ‘The less said about him, the better.’ They had very little time to even speak about him. Word got back that they were surprised at how I managed to get it right because there is so little about him out there. I take that as a compliment.

Was anyone kind about him in the reading you did?

Yes. Even Brian May says, ‘He was a f–king sh-t,’ then he had a moment and went, ‘But he wasn’t all bad,’ because he was very good at entertaining. Everybody said that he was jovial and flamboyant in his own right and that was what Freddie loved about him. Look what he did. He had that power to be one thing and then be another and that’s kind of interesting to play. Some people were kind about him but it is almost as if they were hoodwinked into thinking he was kind and they are still trying to work it out. Someone who saw the movie came up to me and said, ‘I hate you as an actor because you have made me feel a little bit sorry for him.’

So there was one bit of footage of him?

Yes. There is one bit of footage in [2012 documentary] The Great Pretender. It is him in a couple of close ups but he is always around Freddie. That’s where he says that thing, ‘I don’t think Queen will be around when they are 60. I certainly will be.’

What interaction did you have with Brian and Roger?

My interaction was really only towards the end. The band were doing their thing with the guys who were playing them and they had a rapport and they knew each other and I didn’t want to be that weird groupie guy hanging around. So I left them very much to themselves and it was only on my last day that Brian came up and said, ‘It is hard being around you because you look so like him.’ Obviously, they don’t have the greatest memories of the guy. And I spoke to Roger a bit but again only briefly, just to say hello. I haven’t really had a chance to speak to him. I think, hopefully, he will be able to differentiate the character from the actor.

Can you pluck out any moments that you enjoyed as a viewer?

It is such a spectacle if you like their music and the moment that I really loved was the first time they were on Top Of The Pops. You get to see behind the scenes and it is such an iconic video. The movie gives you an opportunity to take that leap and be that voyeur, to go into the world that they were living in. I think that is always so fascinating. You get to go into Freddie’s family home and see that relationship and that’s another thing I loved — at the end, the acceptance that his father gave him is something really, really beautiful.

What sort of relationship did you have with the boys who play the band?

When I arrived I was playing someone who was an outsider within the group and I kind of felt like that a bit until one day. They always had a room to stay in. Rami [Malek] had a room and the band had a room. It was always ‘Rami’, ‘The band’ or ‘Freddie’, ‘The band’. And one day I was walking by, ready to go to my room, and the boys had written ‘The band and Prenter.’ They put me in with themselves. They have become such wonderful friends and they are great guys. They are wonderful actors but they are also wonderful people. They all went off on holiday, once they had finished. I had to go back but they went on holiday together and were sending me loads of photos. We have a WhatsApp group and we talk to each other every week.

When the boys started their press tour I was here in London filming something else and we had a mini little reunion.

Can you think of any other off-camera moments that will stick with you?

We became reprobates at the weekends. One club the boys liked was called Drama. It is under a hotel somewhere near Hyde Park. I suppose because it was a unique experience we were all aware of that, so we spent as much time together as we could. Even on set we used to have these moments. When they were doing I Want To Break Free we had all these moments of me with them on the couch doing videos together off screen. That sort of behaviour would absolutely not be acceptable on any other film set!