Freddie Mercury: The Final Act is a new feature-length documentary on BBC2 that reveals how the Queen frontman hid his deadly AIDS diagnosis from the world and what happened in the flamboyant singer’s heartbreaking last few years and months. With an air date of Saturday Nov 27 at 9pm on BBC2, this documentary also features interviews with Freddie’s bandmates Brian May and Roger Taylor, plus Brian’s wife — former EastEnders star Anita Dobson — and Freddie’s sister Kashmira Bulsara, all sharing their memories of this heartbreaking time.
In 1986 Queen were one of the biggest rock bands in the world. But just a year after a world tour, two sell-out shows at Wembley and the release of their worldwide hit A Kind of Magic, the band’s flamboyant frontman Freddie Mercury was secretly diagnosed with AIDS.
“There were signs something was wrong. We’d seen him disappearing and coming back with these kind of burns to his skin,” says Freddie’s fellow bandmate, Queen guitarist Brian May, in BBC2’s moving 90-minute film Freddie Mercury: The Final Act to mark the 30th anniversary of Freddie Mercury’s death.
“Eventually Freddie sat down and said, ‘okay you guys probably know what’s going on with me. I don’t want to talk about it. I just want to keep on making music for as long as I can.’ And that was it.”
Due to the stigma surrounding AIDS at the time, the band were forced to deny press rumours that anything was wrong. But Freddie Mercury’s health deteriorated rapidly and, by the time Queen accepted the award for Outstanding Contribution to British Music at the BRITs in 1990, it was clear he was very ill.
‘Freddie Mercury: The Final Act’ — the singer’s last year and death
In May 1991, Freddie filmed the music video for the hit Bhese Are The Days of Our Lives, which turned out to be his last. “By then he was finding hit hard to walk, he was finding it hard to sit because he was in a lot of pain. But he never complained, never,” says Brian May.
“He could barely stand then, so it was a very brave thing to do,” adds Queen drummer Roger Taylor. “But he wanted to do it and do it he did. It was like a goodbye. It was very moving.”
During the last two weeks of Freddie’s life, the press camped outside his London home, as Freddie made the decision to stop taking the drugs keeping him alive.
On 24 November 1991 Freddie fell into a coma and died, just 24 hours after revealing his AIDS diagnosis to the world. But as this BBC2 documentary reveals, while Queen fans paid tribute to Freddie’s musical genius, some corners of the press vilified him for his homosexuality. Determined to change the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS, in April 1992 Queen performed at Wembley alongside the likes of Elton John, David Bowie and George Michael as part of The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert shown live on BBC1 to raise awareness of the disease.
“The day Freddie died we spent the whole night at my house just trying to make sense of it. It hit us very hard,’ recalls Roger Taylor. “We were very angry and we had to stick up for our friend, for our best friend. I became fixated with the idea of giving him one hell of a send off – and it was a wonderful day. The warmth was infinite.”
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