Following his vanishing act from the set of Bohemian Rhapsody, and to the surprise of no one, Fox has fired Bryan Singer as director of the film. A replacement is expected to be named within days, and that person will then finish the film—with about two weeks left on the shooting schedule—and see it through post-production. Maybe they can replace him with Christopher Plummer? Every movie should replace one person with Christopher Plummer.
There’s still no word if there is an exposé in the offing—though journalists MUST be looking into Singer, given his history with allegations—and the way the report reads, it sounds like a studio just got fed up with a flaky director. Singer was already operating on thin ice, warned by the Fox brass that they “wouldn’t tolerate any unprofessional behavior on his part”. With star Rami Malek complaining to the studio, and apparently getting into heated arguments with Singer on set, and fellow actor Tom Hollander reportedly quitting and having to be lured back, it sounds like production on Bohemian Rhapsody has been a nightmare.
Singer has released a statement, saying, “Bohemian Rhapsody is a passion project of mine. With fewer than three weeks to shoot remaining, I asked Fox for some time off so I could return to the U.S. to deal with pressing health matters concerning one of my parents. This was a very taxing experience, which ultimately took a serious toll on my own health. Unfortunately, the studio was unwilling to accommodate me and terminated my services. This was not my decision and it was beyond my control.” He also acknowledges the reported clashes with Rami Malek, but says they worked everything out: “While, at times, we did have creative differences on set, Rami and I successfully put those differences behind us and continued to work on the film together until just prior to Thanksgiving.”
Singer’s statement is designed to garner sympathy and paint himself as the poor artist trampled on by the big bad studio. Usually, fans do side with the creatives in moments like these, but I think Singer is going to find sympathy tough to come by. Also, there is always the lingering specter of a potential exposé. The Playlist notes that Singer’s production company is moving off the Fox lot, post haste. Their production deal had ended, but just like Warner Brothers and Brett Ratner, the studio cut short the grace period to get Singer off the lot. That kind of smells like they know something is coming and want to be able to say they acted preemptively.
Yesterday I asked why someone as unreliable as Singer, who has previously disappeared from Superman Returns and X-Men: Apocalypse, would keep getting chances, but really, we know why. It is interesting, though, that the Fox executives who booted him off Rhapsody are women. Stacey Snider took over earlier this year as Chair and CEO of 20th Century Fox, and her Vice-Chair and President of Production is Emma Watts. Both were already at Fox; Snider was co-chair from 2014, and Watts is a twenty-year veteran of the company who worked all over the production chain before taking over as president. They both had to know about Singer’s magic act going into Bohemian Rhapsody—thus the warning.
The question now is who replaces Singer—Bill Condon was at one point attached to the project—and what happens if a story on Singer breaks. Due to Directors’ Guild rules, Singer is going to get that director’s credit. Whoever comes in after him will likely get a writer or producer credit, not unlike Joss Whedon getting a writer’s credit on Justice League. (Ron Howard is getting credited with directing Solo because they scrapped enough of the Lord & Miller material that they no longer qualify as directors “of record”. It basically comes down to who directed the most of the used footage.)
So they bring in Director X to finish the film, and Bohemian Rhapsody makes its December 2018 release date. That’s prime award season. Rami Malek could be a factor in the Best Actor race. Maybe there has been a high profile trip to one or more fall festivals. Director X is there with Malek, smiling in all the photos. They’ve had plenty of time to craft a positive, sound-bite-ready narrative. But through it all is the tag, A Film by Bryan Singer. And who knows what that will mean by this time next year. Maybe nothing. I remain cynical about the odds of Singer getting an official exposé. But maybe a story does break, and then Bohemian Rhapsody is f*cked, no matter who takes over.