Director of Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ Video Considers Lawsuit
Bruce Gowers made music history when he directed the 1975 video for Queen's classic “Bohemian Rhapsody” – but he said he recently began to feel like he was owed more than just the $1,100 he was initially paid for his work.
Gowers is regarded as having launched the entire music video industry when he was given a budget of £3,500 and shot the promotional film in four hours. His cut was £500 (approximately $1,140 then, estimated $5,350 today) and its success led to a career that included work with Kiss, Genesis, Prince, Rod Stewart and many others, along with a Grammy and three Emmy awards.
However, Gowers realized when he saw Queen perform with Adam Lambert in 2017 that they’d continued to use his video, without ever having paid him any more money. “They’ve been using my video for 40 years and they’ve never paid me a dime,” the Daily Mail quoted him as saying in a new interview. “I could potentially take legal action now. It is used every time they perform onstage and I get nothing.”
The band hadn’t breached any contract, he admitted. “At that time it was a new world," he said. "I didn’t think anyone was that into it for making money. It was a thrill to work with Queen, to do a music video and see it played on television, and I think a lot of other young directors who came after me felt the same. I feel they have been taken advantage of by the whole industry.”
He said he started thinking that way after Queen and Lambert performed “Bohemian Rhapsody” using the 1975 video at the Hollywood Bowl last year. “It was like a lightning bolt struck me," he said. "I thought, ‘They have been doing this for years. I surely deserve a little remuneration.’” The video has been watched more than 666 million times on YouTube, generating income there too.
He recalled that he’d completed the video shoot in four hours – time for the band to catch last call in a nearby pub – but that, when the edited result was sent to the BBC for broadcast on Top of the Pops, no one knew if it would be accepted. The moment they knew it had was when it was aired toward the end of the episode.
Gowers worked with Queen three more times before falling out with late singer Freddie Mercury because he was booked for another job. The pair had a “shouting match” in a London restaurant. “Freddie felt betrayed,” he said, “but didn't understand I was not under contract with them, and as a freelancer took work where I could get it. We never spoke properly after that.”
He stated that he wasn’t interested in directing another Queen video. “For me, Freddie was the band," he noted. "To remove the lead singer is a tough call for that project.”
Bohemian Rhapsody, the biopic starring Rami Malek as Mercury, opens in theaters on Friday.