WARNING: There are SPOILERS ahead for Bohemian Rhapsody.
So if you haven’t seen the Queen and Freddie Mercury biopic then you should bookmark this article, watch the film, before returning to read what Allen Leech, who plays Paul Prenter in the film, had to say about the depiction of Mercury’s former manager in “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
While “Bohemian Rhapsody” has undeniably divided critics, there is one aspect of the film that everyone who has seen it can agree on … Paul Prenter was a villain, as Freddie Mercury’s personal manager comes out of the film very poorly.
Not only does he trick Mercury into firing band manager John Reid (Aidan Gillen), but he then tries to interfere with Queen’s musical direction, before taking Mercury to Berlin, keeping him away from the rest of the band and Mercury’s best friend Mary (Lucy Boynton).
But his biggest act of villainy comes right at the end of the film. Because after Mercury rightfully fires Prenter, he then sells his story to the press. I recently had the chance to talk Allan Leech, who plays Prenter in “Bohemian Rhapsody,” about the character, and he talked me through his process of creating his version of Prenter and revealed just how true the depiction is.
“It was immediately into research. I worked with Mike Leigh a couple of years ago and he always said that when you start with a character you have to start with a date of birth.”
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“So when you’re playing someone who already existed, the leg work of this stuff has already been done.”
“But it was straight into research to find out where he was from, what made him tick, what made him move from Belfast and found him in the music industry. All that background work is where I started with him and any character.”
“When you are playing someone who has existed you want to catch their physicality, not just how they looked. So I looked for video and there is this great documentary called ‘The Great Pretender’ about Freddie and Queen.”
“You can actually see Paul Prenter doing his job in that. So that meant I was able to pick up all of his mannerisms and how he acted around Freddie.”
“And what I found out was he was never more than an arm’s length away from Freddie, he was always whispering in his ear, on his shoulder. That was very telling.”
“Once I saw that and saw how he acted and the control he tried to have over Freddie, even in the party or clubbing situation, that was very telling for me.”
But does Leech believe that Prenter was really such a villain?
“My perception is very similar to when I played a character called John Cairncross in ‘The Imitation Game,’ because he was being vilified as well. What I try to do is bring a level of humanity to it.”
“Because I don’t think anyone is just bad, just malevolent. I wanted to try and garner some sympathy for him, especially once he has got fired. But that turns around immediately, because that turns into that television interview.”
“What I wanted to try and show was that the power Paul suddenly got, and when he was given the name Trixie by Freddie, because he knew that he was always up to something.”
“But in all the research I did, the power went to Paul’s head a bit. He was a very lonely man, and that is something he and Freddie had in common.”
“But Freddie was the star, and Paul was just hanging on the coat-tails. When he realized that he could have a lot of power and hold a lot of sway over Freddie, he used it unwisely.”
“I don’t think he went out to hurt anyone. The only thing he did was that he sold the story to the tabloids for £32,000, which made it hard for people who love Queen and love Freddie to justify his actions before that.”
Leech’s performance as Prenter was obviously quite successful, as Brian May and Roger Taylor kept him at arm’s length during production because they were so unsettled by him.
“Brian May came up to me at the very end of filming and said, ‘I am sorry we haven’t spoken a huge amount. But when you are in costume and have that mustache on and the way you move an everything you just remind me so much of him I find it hard to be around you.’”
“It was only at the end and at the premiere that Brian May and Roger Taylor came up to me and said, ‘You’ve done a great job and it is uncanny how much like Paul Prenter you are.’”
“So I took that as a huge compliment. The fact that they wanted to punch me in the face was a huge compliment.”
“Bohemian Rhapsody” is now in cinemas.