Bohemian Rhapsody star Remi Malek recently admitted it had been an “arduous” task to tell Freddie Mercury’s life story in the course of the two-hour movie. Indeed, the Queen icon himself, despite years of global fame, struggled to explain himself to his own satisfaction.

Below are a series of quotes taken from interviews he gave between 1973 and 1987, which illustrate an artist, a star and a man who expressed complexity, energy and loneliness in a variety of ways. Mercurial indeed.

“The concept of Queen is to be regal and majestic. Glamour is a part of us and we want to be dandy. We want to shock and be outrageously instantly.” [1973]

“I was a precocious child. My parents thought boarding school would do me good so they sent me to one when I was seven, dear. I look back on it and I think it was marvellous. You learn to look after yourself and it taught me to have responsibility.” [1974]

“I'm very emotional. Whereas before, I was given time to make my decisions, now nearly all of us are so highly strung we just snap. We always argue but I think it's a healthy sign because we get to the root of the matter and squeeze the best out.” [1974]

“People are used to hard rock, energy music from Queen, yet with [“Killer Queen’] you almost expect Noel Coward to sing it. It's one of those bowler hat, black suspender belt numbers - not that Coward would wear that." [1974]

[On canceling their first U.S. tour partway through] “We did what we had to do, anyway. Sure, a whole tour would have helped us a bit more, but there's no such thing as 'we lost our chance’.” [1974]

“We are basically a rock band. All the lights and paraphernalia are only there to enhance what we do. I think we're good writers - and we want to play good music, no matter how much of a slagging we get. The music is the most important factor.” [1974]

“I think I'm totally original. I'm sure there are many people who see themselves in me, but that's to them. I'm me, basically, and that's how I like to be.” [1975]

Jimi Hendrix is very important. He's my idol. He sort of epitomizes, from his presentation onstage, the whole works of a rock star. There's no way you can compare him. You either have the magic or you don't. There's no way you can work up to it. There's nobody who can take his place. Liza [Minelli], in terms of sheer talent, just oozes with it. She has sheer energy and stamina, which she gets across the stage, and the way she delivers herself to the public is a good influence. There is a lot to learn from her. Led Zeppelin is the greatest. Robert Plant is one of the most original vocalists of our time. As a rock band they deserve the kind of success they're getting.” [1975]

On “Bohemian Rhapsody”: “It was just one of those pieces I wrote for the album; just writing my batch of songs. In its early stages I almost rejected it, but then it grew. … There was a time when the others wanted to chop it around a bit, but I refused. If it was going to be released, it would be in its entirety. We knew it was very risky, but we had so much confidence in that song – I did anyway. I felt, underneath it all, that if it was successful it would earn a lot of respect.” [1976]

“We just want to make sure that we appeal to as wide a cross-section as possible, and not cater to just a fragment of people. It's limitless; we want to hit everyone. We've become sophisticated and disciplined and more listenable as a band, and I think we've matured and so has the audience. But I don't think we've lost the hard-core fans, the real rock and rollers who bought the first album and know what Queen is really about. It's just that we have a lot of sophisticated fans turning up." [1976]

Watch an interview with Mercury from 1977

 

“We've always put our neck on the line. We're fussy and finnicky and have very high standards. If a song can't be done properly, we'd rather it isn't done at all. … We're a very expensive group; we break a lot of rules. It's unheard of to combine opera with a rock theme, my dear. And, we have no such things as a budget anymore. Our manager freaks when we show him the bill. We're lavish to the bone, but all our money goes back into the product. We've gone overboard on every Queen album.” [1977]

“I want to put my music across, as far as entertaining is concerned, with everything: costumes and lights. It's a progression with the music and I felt, for want of better words, if our music was getting mature and sophisticated so should our stage act. Our songs needed a different kind of interpretation, and that's what we're trying to do.” [1977]

“I enjoy being a bitch. I enjoy being surrounded by bitches. I certainly don't go looking for the most perfect people. I'd find that boring. I'm like a mad dog about town. I like to enjoy life. … I have all kinds of paranoia. Being alone is one. I can't go anywhere on my own. I always have to have someone with me whenever I'm shopping, probably because I don't like being stared at.” [1978]

Watch an interview with Mercury from 1977

“I like having fun, and my job is a very good release for me, but it's still my job and I always take it very seriously. And when you are highly strung and you take your work seriously, you're bound to appear difficult to the outside world.” [1981]

Watch an interview with Mercury in 1982

“Sometimes a lyric will get me started. ‘Life Is Real’ was one of those, because the words came first. I just really got into it, pages after pages, all kinds of words. Then I just put it to a song. I just felt that it could be a [John] Lennon-type thing. ‘Killer Queen’ was another one I wrote the words for first. But otherwise I have melodies in my head. I play them on the piano and I used to tape record them. Now I just store them in my head. I feel that if they're worth remembering, I will. If I lose them, I lose them. If they're still in my head, they're worth remember and putting down on tape.” [1982]

Watch an interview with Mercury from 1984

[On how it feels to command audiences of tens of thousands] “Oh, very powerful. You feel like the devil. You feel you could run riot with all these people. Somebody else with a different mentality could really use it to their political advantage. Or disadvantage.” [1984]

[On his solo album Mr. Bad Guy] "I won’t be touring on my own though or splitting up with Queen. Without the others I would be nothing. The press always makes out that I’m the wild one and they’re all quiet, but it’s not true. I’ve got some wild stories about Brian May you wouldn’t believe." [1985]

“I can be a good lover, but I think after all these years I'm not a very good partner for anybody. Maybe my love is dangerous, but who wants their love to be safe?" [1985]

“You can have everything in the world and still be the loneliest man. and that is the most bitter type of loneliness. Success has brought me world idolisation and millions of pounds. but it's prevented me from having the one thing we all need – a loving, ongoing relationship.” [1985]

Watch an interview with Mercury from 1985

“Actually I think in this point in time I think I'm just having a good time, to be honest. Before I was very serious and you know I sort of was caught up being successful and being a star and all that and I thought this is the way a star behaves of whatever. Now, I don't give a damn. I just want to do things my way, I want to have fun doing it.” [1985]

[On band tensions] “It's just fate. A sort of an ingredient that we have, and it's a combination that seems to have worked... That doesn't mean we don't have egos; I mean we all have terrible egos, so there's always been talk of breaking up, and, you know, there's been lots of very bad moods and things, and there's always been somebody or other, one of us saying, ‘I want to call it a day’ and things. But I don't know; I think things seem to be working out right all the time. There's no sort of pill that we're taking to keep together… you can't put a finger on it.” [1986]

“I’m going into opera now. Forget rock ’n’ roll.” [1987]

Watch an interview with Mercury from 1987