As the director of four “X-Men” films, Bryan Singer has shaped numerous stories about Charles Xavier and his telepathic abilities. Not even Professor X himself, however, might be able to divine what’s happening with the director, who disappeared from the set of his new movie, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” last week and has now been fired from the project.
The incident highlights a fundamental contradiction at the heart of the movie business, a $40 billion global industry that at its core relies on unpredictable and, at times, unreliable artists.
Singer had been shooting the Queen biopic, with Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury, in London. But he went missing from the set last week for unexplained reasons. Twentieth Century Fox, the studio behind the film, issued a statement over the weekend saying only that it had stopped production due to Singer’s “unexpected unavailability.”
“Bohemian Rhapsody” centers on the band’s early years, culminating in its seminal Live Aid performance in 1985.
Some outlets have cited a statement Friday from Singer’s lawyer that noted medical concerns. “This is a personal health matter concerning Bryan and his family. Bryan hopes to get back to work on the film soon after the holidays,” the statement said. A call by The Post to Singer’s lead attorney, the Los Angeles-based David Feldman, was not immediately returned.
Late Monday, however, Fox said that Singer has now been fired by the studio and it will hire a new director, still unnamed, to finish the shoot. “Bryan Singer is no longer the director of Bohemian Rhapsody,” the studio said in a statement. The Hollywood Reporter, which first broke the news, said that the director’s absences have afflicted the shoot throughout and led to tension between him and Malek. A person close to the production who asked not to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the firing said that unreliable behavior was indeed the reason for the studio’s decision.
The director’s longtime publicist Simon Halls, meanwhile, told The Washington Post on Monday that he no longer represented the director and declined to explain why. The representative for Graham King, the producer-financer for whom “Bohemian Rhapsody” has long been a passion project, did not respond to a request for comment.
The situation is slightly akin to when filmmaker Zack Snyder left “Justice League” due to a family tragedy and had to be replaced in postproduction by Joss Whedon; in that case, at least, the movie had completed shooting.
Singer, 52, has been one of Hollywood’s more reliable moneymakers, with his past two “X-Men” movies each grossing at least $500 million worldwide. But a raft of allegations of sexual misconduct have long followed him, including several lawsuits by teenage boys accusing him of misconduct in work environments.
Those allegations have resurfaced in the wake of Hollywood’s harassment scandals, and were fueled when the actress Jessica Chastain tweeted last month “let us never forget” in reference to an article about Singer. She has not shied away from those sentiments since.
The disappearance from the set of the New Jersey native, who directed artier fare such as “The Usual Suspects” and “Apt Pupil” before shifting into superhero mode, echoes other cases of directors who kept a distance from their set, to the chagrin of their collaborators. The “Grace of Monaco” (2014) director Olivier Dahan was said by the film’s writer to spend long stretches in his trailer. While directing 2009’s “The Fantastic Mr. Fox,” Wes Anderson kept his distance in Paris while the film shot in London, to the annoyance of the crew.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” has had a tortuous backstory. It was in development as far back as 2010; a conversation with producer King six years ago this month had him talking about its imminent production. Numerous actors, including Sacha Baron Cohen and Ben Whishaw, were attached to play Mercury, and the number of writers and directors involved with it is nearly as long as Queen’s list of top 40 hits. King’s deep investment in the project likely ensures the show will go on, though how it will break free remains in question.