'Bohemian Rhapsody' got a surprise, and censored, release in China

FoxRami Malek as Freddie Mercury in ‘Bohemian Rhapsody.’
  • Queen biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” was released in China over the weekend.
  • But the movie’s gay content has been edited out. Certain scenes have been cut, and sound has been muted.
  • Actor Rami Malek’s best-actor Oscars acceptance speech was also censored in China.

On the heels of four Oscar wins last month, including best actor for Rami Malek’s portrayal of Freddie Mercury, the Queen biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” has been released in China.

But the movie has been edited to exclude any gay content. Fans worried this would happen last month, and took to China’s most popular social-media platform, Weibo, to express their concerns pleading for Chinese censors to release the film as it was intended, according to Variety.

The censored version is only three minutes shorter, but cuts scenes in which Mercury reveals that he is bisexual; when Mercury’s future lover, Jim Hutton, is introduced; and when the band members wear women’s clothing, according to The New York Times.

READ MORE: Netflix’s Mötley Crüe movie, ‘The Dirt,’ is being called a boring and ‘wonderfully bad’ music biopic in the vein of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’

There is also a scene in which Mercury tells his fellow band members that he has AIDS, and the dialogue is suddenly muted, according to the Times.

Malek’s Oscars acceptance speech was also censored on Mango TV, one of the websites that live-streamed the telecast in China.

“We made a film about a gay man, an immigrant, who lived his life unapologetically himself,” Malek said. But “special group” replaced “gay man” in Mango’s subtitles, Variety reported last month.

“Bohemian Rhapsody” made $US6.5 million in its opening weekend in China, according to Box Office Mojo, adding to its $US889 million worldwide box-office gross.

Hollywood movies boost the Chinese box office

Chinese media regulators began limiting actors’ salaries last year, capping their pay at 40% of production costs. Lead actors can’t be paid more than 70% of total cast pay. The country’s biggest movie star, Fan Bingbing, also disappeared from the public eye for three months in 2018 after she was accused of tax evasion as part of a crackdown on secret contracts. She publicly apologised to the Chinese government in October.

In the midst of this crackdown, China approved more Hollywood movies for release in December in an effort to reach its box-office goal of $US8.7 billion by the end of 2018. While box-office growth slowed to 9% compared to 13.5% growth in 2017, it still passed its goal and reached $US8.87 billion.

This media climate could be a factor in why China approved “Bohemian Rhapsody,” a global box-office hit, for release, despite content that it would censor.

China is projected to pass the US as the world’s box-office leader within the next five years.

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