From Animal Ark to Bohemian Rhapsody, Gwilym Lee on Hollywood and refusing to see the bigger picture

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Gwilym Lee (left) as Brian May in Bohemian Rhapsody (Picture: 20th Century Fox)

Gwilym Lee is ready to accept that his first blockbuster movie is probably going to be the biggest of his entire career.

And hes okay with that.

I try not to compare jobs and I try to appreciate every job for its own merits but this will be the only one of its kind, this will always be very special in my heart, he admits, as we meet in a London hotel as the cast kick off a worldwide tour to promote the film.

You can never… any job you do, you can never think about the bigger picture, he adds.

All were in control of is what we do day to day on set and how we prepare to do our job each day. If I ever got overwhelmed I just tried to concentrate on things I am in control of.



Often that just meant going back to basics like practicing the guitar – which was a big thing for me – so I never tried to think too much of the bigger picture, I just tried to be present at work every day and bring as much energy to work as I could.

(Picture: Getty Images for Twentieth Century Fox )

The 34-year-old actor may be a familiar face to British TV audiences, after starting out in Animal Ark in the lates 90s on CITV before appearing in Midsomer Murders but its his big screen portrayal of Brian May that will make his name global.

He fell in love with acting because of the playfulness and cheekiness and the sense of camraderie of being in a play – even a school play at 10-years-old.

**THIS IMAGE HAS NOT YET BEEN INDEXED BY THE LIBRARY. IF IN ANY DOUBT ABOUT COPYRIGHT,CAPTION OR FEE CONTACT LIBRARY OR PICTURE DESK ** PKT6107-448276 TELEVISION PROGRAMME "ANIMAL ARK" 1997 New series from the same team that gave us the famous five, so we can expect high standards. Mandy Hope wants to be a vet when she grows up, just like her parents. She helps them both around the surgery and, with her friend James Hunter, rescuse injured and badly treated animals. A baby badger features in the first episode. Ferrets, stick insects and cute Kittens will follow.

Gwilym (right) starred in Animal Ark on CITV (Picture: HTV)

I just felt that was where I belonged, he tells

And it remained a passion until I was 16 and then got a part in RSCs Richard III and that was my first exposure to professional actors and I realised “oh you can do this for a living, as a job, I may pursue this” and so from that point on I thought about strategy.

That strategy took him from the stage to Land Girls and recent Sky drama Jamestown where he played a Jacobian member of society wearing a codpiece and prancing around in tights, but next is one of the biggest films of the year.

Gwilym is known to British audiences for his roles in Midsomer Murders (Picture: Getty)

Bohemian Rhapsody has been in the works for 10 years, with Brian May previously revealing a mix of production issues and creative differences across the board.



Rami Malek signed on to play Freddie Mecury after Sacha Baron Cohen and Ben Whishaw walked away from the project, with Baron Cohen making it clear publicly that he did not believe the script delved deep enough into Freddies AIDS diagnosis and suggested that Brian and Roger Taylor wanted the biopic to be about them as a band than the tragic life of Freddie, who died in 1991.

Gwilym dismisses rumours that Brian was controlling the set but does call him hands on and supportive.

Although Brian and Roger did have a say in who was hired, Gwilym met Brian for the first time during rehearsals for Live Aid: He came straight up to me and gave me a big bear hug and I just felt his excitement that this story was being told, and from that moment, having been slightly nervous, I just felt supported.

To have his blessing was a very encouraging way to start the whole process.

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Later, with two weeks of filming left, director Bryan Singer was fired from the movie after Rami approached studio bosses with concerns, and Gwilym pauses when asked about the mood on set before and after the decision to ask Bryan to leave.

It was an unfortunate situation, he eventually says.

But we were all professionals and we all just get on with it. We knew at that point when the filming was paused who are characters were and we knew where we were at the story, so we took it in our stride.


Dexter Fletcher was bought on board to finish the film, and Gwilym is quick to praise the 52-year-old for bringing an energy to the set – a sentiment Lucy Boynton also agrees with, admitting that Dexter had such a great, very Freddie energy.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Nils Jorgensen/REX (9942520dj) Gwilym Lee, Allen Leech, Rami Malek, Joseph Mazzello 'Bohemian Rhapsody' film premiere, London, UK - 23 Oct 2018 Anticipated premiere of Freddie Mercury biopic, starring Rami Malek as the late Queen singer, at SSE Arena Wembley, London

Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, Rami Malek and Joseph Mazzello – BFFs for life (Picture: Rex)

This film gave Gwilym not only the chance to play one of Britains greatest guitar players but also gave him three best friends in Rami, Ben Hardy and Joe Mazzello, who share WhatsApp groups and photo sharing groups they hope never see the light of day.

We knew that one of the most important things in telling this was to capture the rapport between the band members – any band is tight but Queen were a family, a real unit, and like any family they have fallings out and tough times but they kept coming back together, he says.

It was real inextricable bond between them that we needed to capture so we hung out a lot, we went out together in evenings, and Joe and Rami are both from the States so me and Ben would show them our favourite places and host them and just have fun together as much as possible.

To this day we are inseparable, were all best mates and it doesnt go a day when we dont all speak to each other.

Ben Hardy, Roger Taylor, Brian May and Gwilym Lee (Picture: Getty)

The first sequence the four filmed together was the iconic Live Aid scene, which comes at the end of the film and Gwilym laughs as he admits the fear we see in the bands eyes as characters was very much real that day.


As for the last sequence they filmed?

It was Rami and Gwilym playing Love Of My Life.

When it came to the very last shot, a close up of Rami, the whole cast and crew had gathered and Dexter had called out for Rami to take a bow and then another bow, says Gwilym fondly remembering that last day.

Rami is like, “Ive been doing this for six months, I know how to bow like Freddie Mercury” and then Dexter says, “and take another bow and stay down there”, and when he came back up the whole cast and crew got together and let out one of the most emotional receptions I have ever heard, and Rami gave a moving speech, and… it was a very special job in that sense.

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Up next for Gwilym will be Australian romantic comedy Top End Wedding and then new ITV drama by Doctor Fosters Mike Bartlett.

I love the contrasts so I would never say I am just a film actor, I just enjoy all of it really, he says, admitting he is also keen to get back on the stage where his career first began as a boy in school productions age 10 in the West Midlands.

I want to keep doing interesting work with interesting people in whatever form that may take, but I want to play the big parts of classical theatre, I want to go on stage and play great Shakespearean roles and at the same time do amazing challenging indie films and comedy and I want to do it all.

I am greedy.

Bohemian Rhapsody is out in UK cinemas now.

MORE: Bohemian Rhapsody review: Rami Malek is the champion of what is essentially a Queen Wikipedia entry

MORE: Lucy Boynton hints Bohemian Rhapsody bosses told her what to say during film promo

MORE: Rami Malek reveals breaking point which led to Bryan Singers firing from Bohemian Rhapsody



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