Watch Freddie Mercury bravely face his final filmed interview despite secret diagnosis

25 November 2022, 16:14

In his final ever filmed interview, Freddie Mercury wasn't his usual self.
In his final ever filmed interview, Freddie Mercury wasn't his usual self. Picture: Rudi Dolezal

By Thomas Curtis-Horsfall

It was perhaps ironic that Freddie Mercury was promoting 'The Great Pretender'.

But in hindsight, it's now clear that Freddie Mercury recorded the song because he was hiding a huge secret from the world.

In 1987, he was interviewed by Austrian director Rudi Dolezal during the promotional tour for his latest single, a cover of The Platters' classic doo-wop number.

What we didn't know however - nor did Freddie sadly - was that it was going to be his final ever filmed interview in front of the camera.

Freddie was always illuminating during interviews, confidently communicating his brash and outspoken opinions, and frequently cracking jokes and being cheeky.

He always lived up to people's perception of what a rock star was, and as the legendary frontman of Queen, there was nobody in the history of music that did it better than Freddie.

But away from the spotlight in his private and personal life, Freddie was shy, considerate, reserved, and incredibly humble.

With 'The Great Pretender' he wanted to tell the world he wasn't just the rock star we all knew and loved, but that he had multiple sides to his personality.

As we all now know however, he was also secretly battling the disease that would later take his life.

During the interview, Freddie discusses the meaning of the song and hints that he himself has plenty of pretending to do.

It's clear that he's not quite the same confident and outgoing Freddie we've all become used to, and doesn't seem to relax.

He conducts the interview in a stand-offish manner, standing by the jukebox with a cigarette in hand throughout.

Of course, he had been diagnosed with AIDS at this point, which in retrospect we now know. In fact, it would've been one of his first interviews since the diagnosis.

And during the interview, he very much knows that he's on borrowed time, but puts on a brave face to discuss his new music.

Without a doubt, the Queen legend must've been feeling awful, knowing about his diagnosis and having to keep it a secret from the outside world.

But he knew he had to protect his career, and protect the people around him that he loved.

Freddie kept his diagnosis secret, and battled his disease in private.
Freddie kept his diagnosis secret, and battled his disease in private. Picture: Eagle Rock

Because of his strong personality, Freddie never wanted sympathy either, so preferred to battle his disease on his own.

He was on medication at this point, and his face was slightly more bloated than we'd seen previously. He also had a small skin lesion on his cheek.

Freddie would've been very aware that the public would've noticed the changes, so seemingly distracted them by shaving off his moustache.

Despite being uptight throughout, he's incredibly comfortable talking about his new music and his reasons for recording 'The Great Pretender'

He's more than happy however to promote his love for opera singer Monserrat Caballe, who he collaborated with on his epic album Barcelona.

"She's the best singer in the world!" he gushes when asked about the opera icon, and Freddie wasn't exactly a bad singer himself.

He was still clearly excited about his music and the opportunities ahead of him, even though he was aware he might not be able to fulfil all of his ambitions.

The interviewer Rudi Dolezal - who has directed music videos for the likes of Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, David Bowie, as well as Queen - has promised to publish a book about the fascinating conversations he had with Freddie at the time.

Because of their close connection, Dolezal was asked by Queen to direct the music video for 'These Are the Days of Our Lives', which would turn out to be the final ever video footage of Freddie.

Out of respect for Freddie, the Austrian director filmed in black and white in a "desperate attempt to conceal Mercury's physical deterioration".

During the 1987 interview, Freddie talks to Rudi about playing the role of the Freddie Mercury that we all knew, but was also playing that role whilst knowing he might not have survived.

Freddie would tragically succumb to the dreadful disease in 1991 at the age of just 45, but left a legacy as rock 'n' roll music's greatest performer.