Bohemian Rhapsody – Marketing Recap

My latest marketing recap at The Hollywood Reporter covers the “troubled production” that lead to Bohemian Rhapsody.

The film been plagued by poor headlines during production based largely around the departure of original director Bryan Singer, who is said to have clashed with Malek and failed to return to the set after a break late last year. Singer is still credited as the director, though Dexter Fletcher — who also directed the upcoming Elton John biopic Rocketman — stepped in to finish production and editing.

Online and Social

The official website of the movie follows the usual Fox format, starting off with the “Trailers” and other videos and moving on to “About” where you can read a synopsis and cast/crew list. That section also features links to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram profiles.

“Sing Along” is where people can find out more about the “Put Me In Bohemian” promotion. The “Gallery” is followed by “Partners” information.

Media and Publicity

Malek has been talking about the movie and how he prepared for playing Mercury, as well as the intimidating reality of doing so while members of Queen were around, for over a year, all the way back to when he was doing press for Buster’s Mal Heart.

A first look at Malek as Mercury appeared in Entertainment Weekly along with comments from the actor about getting the look of the singer just right.

The latest in a long series of recent directorial dramas emerged when it was reported production had been halted due to the unexplained and unexcused absence of Singer, who disappeared following what was said to be tension between him and Malek. Singer was soon fired by Fox, which announced a new director would be hired soon to finish the few weeks of filming that remained. The director came out quickly with a statement insisting Fox was keeping him shut out after denying him time off to deal with family health issues. He was soon replaced by Dexter Fletcher, who had been attached to the project early in its development. It was later reported that, despite all that drama, Singer would retain sole directorial credit.

Things went dark for a while after that until Malek showed up in character at Fox’s CinemaCon presentation, which also included a rough-cut trailer for attendees to get a better look at the film. Malek talked a bit about how the role was so imposing but no one involved mentioned the director situation. It was also part of the studio’s similar CineEurope presentation.

In the wake of the trailer’s release there was a round, represented by comments from showrunner and frequent subject of “…Has Dropped Out of (project name)” headlines Bryan Fuller, of anger and frustration over accusations Fox was hiding both Mercury’s homosexuality and AIDS diagnosis. Neither of those are explicitly referred to in the initial marketing materials so there is a point to be made, but it was also early in the campaign at that point. That first trailer also spurred a spike in sales and stream’s of the band’s music.

Another new photo was accompanied by an interview with Malek about how he tried to get into Mercury’s head and how doing so helped him get through production. Malek showed up on “KImmel” to talk about the same subject, how he worked hard to really become Mercury.

Malek’s dedication to researching the role was the subject of a feature profile on the actor. He also pushed back on the idea that the film was glossing over Mercury’s sexuality or illness, saying that absolutely wasn’t the case, though that doesn’t address why they were conspicuously absent from the marketing.

Singer wasn’t completely removed from the narrative, as the director preemptively commented on a story he presumed was going to cover the multiple accusations of sexual abuse and harassment that have been leveled at him over the years.

Overall

Basically if you like Queen you’ll probably like the campaign and then the movie. But if you’re looking for anything that pushes beyond that in any substantive way you may be disappointed.

Picking Up The Spare

There have been a number of stories like this that cover the long, troubled trip the movie took from conception to release.

Malek and the rest of the cast appeared in an IMAX featurette hyping how that format is the best one to get the full impact of the movie’s music.

A series of “Tribute to Queen” videos featuring JaQuel Knight, Garth Brooks and Ja Rule were released, continuing the angle of the campaign showing how influential the band was on a whole range of musicians.

Wrangler took advantage of the movie’s style to launch a line of jeans “inspired” by the look and feel of the band.

The studio partnered with Sofar Sounds on a special night of screenings in eight cities around the country.

Striking while the iron is hot, Queen and Adam Lambert announced “The Rhapsody Tour.”

Fox released a side-by-side comparison of footage from Queen’s actual Live Aid performance and the movie’s recreation of that concert.

Another community campaign, #StompForQueen, was the subject of a promotional video after the movie had already been in theaters for a while.

Fox put a sing-along version of the movie back in theaters to encourage people to come back out one more time and get a little audience participation going.

Director Dexter Fletcher talked about his work on this movie while promoting Rocketman. 

Papillon – Marketing Recap

This week’s new movie Papillon is based on the books by Henri “Papillon” Charrière, telling the story of his imprisonment on a remote island after being mistakenly convicted of murder. In the movie, Charlie Hunnam plays Charrière, someone who is a criminal but not a murderer.

Once on the island prison, Charrière befriends fellow criminal Louis Dega (Rami Malek), who encourages Charrière to continue trying to escape despite the odds against success, promising to fund those attempts.

The Posters

The first one-sheet definitely isn’t being humble as the movie is billed as “The greatest escape adventure ever told.” That’s displayed beneath the weathered and somewhat weary-looking faces of Hunnam and Malek, who we see are being held in some sort of work camp or similar type of prison. Their faces are visible through the cutout image of a butterfly that breaks up the solid yellow of the rest of the poster.

The Trailers

Henri is arrested when the trailer opens, a situation he tries to explain is a mistake. Despite that he’s sent to a terrible-looking prison where he bonds with Louis, rumored to be carrying substantial amounts of cash. After Henri promises to protect the smaller man, Louis agrees to fund an escape plan, something even the administrators of the facility encourage because of their certainty in the security. From there on out there are scenes of the various escape attempts and their consequences, including the apparent hallucinations that result from time spent in solitary confinement.

It’s an interesting trailer, one that presents kind of a mixed bag for audiences. There’s the harshness of the penal colony the two men and the others are sent to and the struggle the engage in just to make it through each day and then there’s the slightly surreal elements that come in as hope begins eating away at everyone’s psyche. Malik and Hunnam seem to play well off each other, which is important since their friendship is what will likely drive the story on all fronts.

Online and Social

Bleecker Street’s official website for the movie has all the usual content within its standard template. So as you scroll down the site you’ll be able to watch the “Trailer,” read a “Synopsis” and check out a few original “Editorial” pieces about the characters and filmmaking. There are also links to the Twitter, Facebook and Instagram profiles created.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

A TV spot skipped much of the character establishing of the trailer and sold the movie simply as a story of trying to escape from a remote, brutal prison.

Media and Publicity

A first-look photo gave fans their first glimpse at Hunnam and Malik in advance of the movie’s screening at the Toronto Film Festival. In mid-August a couple clips like this one started to come out.

Overall

The campaign itself isn’t hugely engaging, but there are some good elements to it. The poster is kind of the strongest part of it while the trailer doesn’t offer a very strong sales pitch. It’s not bad, it’s just a more complex story than can be captured here and it doesn’t convey a clear message to the audience. Aside from the release of clips, there isn’t much on the publicity front, either, so I’d be surprised if awareness of the movie was very high.

PICKING UP THE SPARE

A few days before the movie hit theaters I started to see promoted Tweets like this and others.
A new interview here with stars Charlie Hunnam and Rami Malek about the bond they forged during production.