A series of stories about the chaotic set of “Bohemian Rhapsody” culminated with the announcement that 20th Century Fox has fired director Bryan Singer. Reports of Singer’s “erratic” behavior include fighting with lead actor Rami Malek, the director not showing up on set (veteran cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel reportedly stepping into the role), and after the Thanksgiving holiday, Singer disappearing completely, leaving a representative to cite a “personal health matter” concerning the director and a family member as the reason for his absence.
All of this is set against a backdrop in which many of Hollywood’s most powerful men have been brought down by allegations of sexual harassment and assault. Hollywood is a different place than it was over a year ago, when Fox started working with Singer to develop the long-simmering biopic about Queen frontman Freddie Mercury. Singer has faced his own past allegations of sexual harassment, abuse and pedophilia, significant enough that students at the USC School of Cinematic Arts formally requested his name be removed from the Bryan Singer Division of Cinema & Media Studies. (The school said it would take the matter “very seriously.”)
For the fate of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” this context is important. In recent weeks, Hollywood has been aware of multiple publications investigating Singer. Fox is not only looking at an immediate problem of how to save a movie that still has two weeks of production remaining, but they are also likely considering the very real possibility that when the film premieres, it will be attached to a name plagued by stories from his past. When titans like Brett Ratner, Kevin Spacey, and Harvey Weinstein became toxic, Hollywood felt compelled to sever all possible ties. For Singer and “Bohemian Rhapsody,” this is an unlikely option for Fox.
While Fox has the ability buy out Singer’s pay-or-play contract and replace him with someone who will finish the film — as it apparently did this week — the studio cannot change the directing credits on “Bohemian Rhapsody.” No matter who brings the film through post, it will likely be a film directed by — and only by — Bryan Singer.
For decades, the Director’s Guild of America has had an ironclad clause in its studio contracts that states there will always be one director per movie (directing partnerships like the Coen Brothers are seen as one entity), with the DGA as the sole arbiter that decides the official “director” of a film. The DGA also maintains the right to step in and make that decision regarding the director credit at any point in the process.
It is hard to imagine a scenario in which Singer would not be deemed the film’s director by the DGA; he oversaw development, casting, and pre-production, and spent more than two months shooting “Bohemian Rhapsody.” It’s an impossible position for the DGA, and one that’s become increasingly familiar: The DGA still has James Toback, Ratner, Bill Cosby, and “Midnight Rider” director Randall Miller as active members.
THR reports that the DGA was present on the “Bohemian Rhapsody” set, but that’s not unusual; the guild routinely makes set visits, as it also represents UPMs, assistant directors, and location managers. However, to have the DGA on set monitoring the situation with Singer is significant. The DGA is extremely protective of its members’ rights, and would not hesitate to to make its presence known if there was conflict with the director. That said: If ever there were grounds to deem someone else the director of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the guild would have collected that information first hand.
However, that scenario is highly unlikely. No matter how the story develops — for “Bohemian Rhapsody,” or for Singer — 20th Century Fox can expect to open a film by Bryan Singer for Christmas 2018.
Read IndieWire’s timeline on Singer’s rocky career here.