Freddie Mercury: The Great Pretender

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Freddie Mercury - The Great Pretender (documentary)
Genre Documentary
Directed by Rhys Thomas
Starring Freddie Mercury
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
Producer(s) Rhys Thomas
Jim Beach
Editor(s) Christopher Bird
Running time 87 minutes
Production company(s) Eagle Rock; Mercury Songs
Original channel BBC One
Original airing 16 October 2012

Freddie Mercury: The Great Pretender is a the Emmy/Rose d'Or award winning 2012 feature length documentary about Queen star Freddie Mercury and his attempt to forge a solo career. The documentary premiered on BBC One in edited form as part of the Imagine series and later the Director's Cut was shown on BBC 4. It gained 3.5 million viewers when aired on BBC One in October 2012 and a further 1.2 million when shown on BBC 4.

Reuniting the producer, editor and director of photography behind 2011's widely acclaimed “Queen: Days of Our Lives” BBC documentary, “The Great Pretender” in similar vein presents a compelling insight into its subject matter, unearthing previously undiscovered or rarely seen footage.

Produced and directed by Rhys Thomas, lifelong Queen fan and expert (to the extent that Rhys famously broke the Mastermind all-time record points score with a specialist subject of Queen), Rhys has this time turned his attention to the Freddie archive, going back as early as 1976 in search of vintage gems which reveal more than ever before the inside story of Freddie’s life and career and the solo projects he worked on outside of Queen.

The extensive archive footage is drawn from rare interviews with Freddie, concerts, video shoots and personal material, much of it being seen for the first time, along with newly filmed contributions from fellow Queen members Brian May and Roger Taylor, Queen manager Jim Beach, soprano Montserrat Caballé, composers David Arnold and Mike Moran, lyricist Tim Rice, comedian and lifelong fan Matt Lucas and many more.

From it emerges a portrait of a man who was very different from his flamboyant onstage public persona.

Among the treasures to be anticipated, “The Great Pretender” includes for the first time ever Freddie and Rod Stewart singing their demo for “Take Another Piece of My Heart”, an unreleased song from 1984, a snippet of the unreleased Michael Jackson / Freddie Mercury collaboration “There Must Be More To Life Than This”, and Freddie with the Royal Ballet 1979 – never seen in full before.

Rhys, whose extensive scouting for lost material turned up a copy of the band’s first TV appearance among the belongings of late comedian Dick Emery, brings to the light Freddie’s earliest filmed interview from 1976 unearthed in Australia and another unseen interview from 1976 filmed by NBC in the USA.

Rhys also found 10 cans of Freddie’s 39th Black and White birthday party in Mrs Henderson’s nightclub in Munich in 1985. Originally filmed for the video for “Living On My Own” and promptly banned by Freddie’s record company because of its cross-dressing theme, there’s much to be enjoyed in watching Freddie and his friends go full out in their efforts to help Freddie celebrate his last birthday before turning 40.

On top of this, “The Great Pretender” has a feast of outtakes from the video shoots for “I Want To Break Free”, “One Vision”, “Days of Our Lives”, “I Want It All”, “A Kind Of Magic”, “Princes of the Universe”, “Living on My Own”, Born To Love You”, “Great Pretender”, “Made In Heaven”, and “Who Wants to Live Forever”.

Coinciding with the “The Great Pretender” comes the release of the new “Barcelona: Special Edition” album with Freddie and Montserrat’s original album re-recorded with full 80 piece orchestra [a feature on the making of this album is included on both formats] and a new book, also entitled “The Great Pretender” with matching artwork.

Freddie Mercury was one of the most charismatic, complex and fascinating characters in British rock music. A generous, caring, thoughtful man with a self-deprecating sense of humour and a genuine passion for music. Freddie Mercury touched the lives of millions through his career both with Queen and as a solo performer and this new programme is sure to delight and inform his legions of fans as never before.

“The Great Pretender” was released on DVD and Blu-ray, through Eagle Rock Entertainment on 24 September 2012. As bonus features [that will not make up part of the version to be broadcast by the BBC] the programme includes “Freddie Mercury Goes Solo” and an extended interview with Montserrat Caballé.

In May 2013 the documentary won the Rose d'Or for Best Arts Documentary and in November 2013 won the International Emmy for Best Arts Documentary.


  • 'A MUST SEE - 5 STARS' - Time Out
  • 'One of the best documentaries so far this year. Jaw - droppingly good' - The Observer
  • 'A touching and intimate portrait : 4 STARS' - The Daily Mail
  • 'A revealing and personal portrait of the man behind the music.' - The Telegraph
  • 'An affectionate portrait' - The Sunday Times
  • 'A revealing and riveting documentary that's not just for Queen fans.' The Independent on Sunday
  • 'Sublime...A rewarding and moving experience. 4 STARS' The Telegraph.