In December 2017, director Bryan Singer was fired from the set of “Bohemian Rhapsody” — the biopic of legendary Queen frontman Freddie Mercury that would go on to gross more than $225 million at the box office worldwide and, despite critical backlash, receive a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Picture. Singer, who directed a majority of the film and was released from production only weeks from finishing it, was reportedly fired because of poor professional behavior on set and “creative differences” with cast and crew.
Much has been said and written about the film and its cinematic shortcomings, but the fact of the matter remains that the most upsetting facet of the financial and awards-circuit success of “Bohemian Rhapsody” is its ties to Singer, who is still officially credited as the film’s director. Singer, who previously directed “The Usual Suspects” and various entries in the “X-Men” franchise, has been the subject of a variety of sexual assault and misconduct allegations throughout his career. And recently, a slew of new allegations arose in the course of the past few months from men who accused Singer of assaulting them when they were underage.
The allegations against Singer aren’t new — indeed, they’re far from it — but he has enjoyed a plethora of directorial opportunities with big budgets at his disposal over the past years. In 1997, Devin St. Albin, a 14-year-old extra in Singer’s “Apt Pupil,” filed a lawsuit convicting the director of ordering him and other minors to strip for a scene. Such allegations, however, seem to have been quickly forgotten — Singer was nominated for a Saturn Award for the same film. In the years following, he has nabbed a slew of similar nominations and awards for later works — including “X-Men,” “Superman Returns” and “Valkyrie” — with his nominations for his latest two X-Men installments apparently unaffected by the sexual harassment allegations filed against him in 2014.
In a report released this year — the product of a year of investigations — The Atlantic describes Singer’s long history of manipulation and rape. His targets have included not only men but also underaged boys as young as 13. The advances and attacks happened in the sphere of Singer’s personal life (at parties and in his own home) but also at work, on set. Such offenses do not take place in a vacuum. Time and time again, Singer has not only been convicted of crimes both emotional and physical but has done so by blatantly abusing his power and status as a wealthy member of the Hollywood elite.
How disappointing that only a year later, the academy and Hollywood alike seem to have fallen back into their old ways of recognizing art without addressing the problematic behavior of its creator. “Bohemian Rhapsody” is not the hill that people who believe art and the artist should be separate should die on. Those attached to this film and those praising it as one of the year’s best works need to address the fact that Singer, as the director, had a huge role in developing it — and that his actions are not supported, even if the film is.
The fact that the academy hasn’t made a statement condemning Singer’s actions in and of itself shows a blatant disregard for the severity of the allegations, especially when men speaking out about their sexual misconduct experiences are very often ignored. If “Bohemian Rhapsody” were to take the Oscar for best picture this Sunday, it would be akin to Hollywood telling people everywhere that #MeToo and Time’s Up were as temporary as last year’s fashion trends.
Maisy Menzies is the arts & entertainment editor. Contact her at [email protected].
Ryan Tuozzolo is the assistant arts & entertainment editor. Contact her at [email protected].