Bohemian Rhapsody's Chinese cut: no homosexuality, no frocks – and no Aids

Three minutes of censored footage from the Freddie Mercury biopic has been lost for viewers in China

In the wake of Bohemian Rhapsody’s four Oscar wins, news emerged that the film was to be censored for its Chinese release. Estimates hovered around the minute mark, to excise drug use and same-sex kissing.

The edited version premiered in China last weekend and reports have emerged of a rather more drastic set of snips, meaning not just Freddie Mercury’s sexuality and drug use but also his cross-dressing – and his Aids – are consigned to the cutting-room floor.

According to The New York Times, scenes lost include that in which Mercury discusses his sexuality with his fiancée and another in which his future partner, Jim Hutton, is introduced.

When Mercury tells his bandmates he has Aids – complications from which led to his death in 1991 – the dialogue was apparently silenced and no subtitles provided. A spokesman for 20th Century Fox, the studio behind the film, told the Times the company had no comment on the censored release of Bohemian Rhapsody in China.

The film has taken nearly $1bn at the worldwide box office, despite some backlash to what some felt was a minimising of the singer’s sexuality in the original version, as well as production hiccups after director Bryan Singer was fired from the project before completion.

Special group … Gwilym Lee, Rami Malek and Joe Mazzello play Queen in Bohemian Rhapsody.
Special group … Gwilym Lee, Rami Malek and Joe Mazzello play Queen in Bohemian Rhapsody. Photograph: Alex Bailey/AP

In his acceptance speech, Rami Malek, who played Mercury, dedicated his best actor Oscar win to the musician, saying: “We made a film about a gay man, an immigrant, who lived his life just unapologetically himself.”

Chinese broadcaster Mango TV replaced the words “gay man” with “special group” in its subtitles. The country has a rich history of censoring western cinema; Oscar-winning hits such as Moonlight and Call Me By Your Name were entirely denied a release. Likewise gentle Winnie the Pooh origins film Christopher Robin was banned because Pooh had been used as a symbol of resistance by Chinese activists.

However, live-action film Beauty and the Beast was given a significant release in 2017, earning a reported $85m in China, despite the inclusion of its brief “gay moment”.


Catherine Shoard

The GuardianTramp

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