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 network BBC One
Original release 16 October 2012

Freddie Mercury: The Great Pretender is an Emmy/Rose d'Or award winning 2012 feature-length documentary about Queen singer 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 Four. It gained 3.5 million viewers when aired on BBC One in October 2012 and a further 1.2 million when shown on BBC Four.

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

The extensive archive footage is drawn from rare interviews with Mercury, 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.

The Great Pretender includes for the first time ever Mercury and Rod Stewart singing their 1984 demo for "Let Me Live", a snippet of the then unreleased Michael Jackson collaboration "There Must Be More To Life Than This", and Mercury with The Royal Ballet in 1979, never seen in full before.

Thomas, 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 light Mercury’s earliest filmed interview from 1976 unearthed in Australia and another unseen interview from 1976 filmed by NBC in the USA.

Thomas also found 10 cans of Mercury’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 Mercury’s record company because of its cross-dressing theme, there’s much to be enjoyed in watching Mercury and his friends go full out in their efforts to help him 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", "These Are the Days of Our Lives", "I Want It All", "A Kind of Magic", "Princes of the Universe", "Living on My Own", "I Was Born to Love You", "The Great Pretender", "Made in Heaven", and "Who Wants to Live Forever".

Coinciding with the The Great Pretender came the release of the new Barcelona Special Edition album with Mercury and Caballé’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.

The Great Pretender was released on DVD and Blu-ray through Eagle Rock Entertainment on 24 September 2012. As bonus features that did not make up part of the version to be broadcast by the BBC, the programme included "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.