Gwilym Lee: "Like most, my first memory of Queen was Wayne's World"
The actor's earliest memory of Queen comes from the 1992 Mike Myers comedy
Queen are one of those bands whose music makes an impression the very first time you hear it, and because of that most people remember their first experience listening to the iconic band.
It's no different for Gwilym Lee either, the man given the daunting task of playing Queen's legendary guitarist Brian May in Bohemian Rhapsody, the new Bryan Singer-directed biopic about the band.
"Of course I remember," says the 34-year-old, talking to us at one of the many press days he's been taking part in all over the world these past few months. "And I think it was the same way for a lot of people of my generation. It was the 'Bohemian Rhapsody' scene in Wayne’s World."
Gwilym is referring to the opening scene of the 1992 comedy, written and starring fellow Bohemian Rhapsody actor Mike Myers, where Wayne and Garth are seen driving while singing and head banging along to the classic rock anthem with their friends in the back.
"That was a massive thing for us," he explains. "So that was a good introduction to Queen's music for a lot of us.
"But also, my older brother was quite a big Queen fan and so I used to listen to records with him when I was younger and I remember in particular listening to The Miracle with him.
"He got given it for his birthday and on the day of his actual birthday, the day he was given it as his birthday present, I was actually sick and off school and so he had to stay and look after me, which of course he wasn't happy about. It was his 14th birthday and he’d rather have been out with his friends.
"So we just sat there and listened to The Miracle back to back all day and learnt all the words to 'I Want it All', and so through him I listened to a lot of Queen."
Stating that his turn as Brian May in Bohemian Rhapsody might be the biggest role he ever gets to play, Gwilym remembers meeting Brian for the first time.
"It was such an intimidating prospect to take on such an iconic role of such a legend, someone who’s loved by so many," he begins. "It was nerve racking but he came to the rehearsal room quite early on in the process and the first thing he did was walk through the door, walk straight up to me and give me a big ol’ hug, a big ol’ bear hug. At that point it just takes the pressure off to see his excitement that the project was being made.
"He came on set quite a lot actually but only really for scenes when we were doing live music performances because that was his realm, and that’s where he could help us most - I also feel that for the more intimate and private scenes he didn’t want to interfere too much. Although Roger and he are music producers on the film I don’t think they wanted to sugarcoat the story too much, I think they wanted it to be a faithful, warts and all, telling of that tale. So he left us to our own devices when it came to that. But for the music performances he was always present and I never felt less than encouraged by him."
Remembering one scene in particular, one he says he'll never forget, Gwilym adds:
"When we were doing the Top of the Pops sequence he was stood in the wings just before my close up, and just before they yelled 'action', he just goes, 'Go on Gwil!' And I was just thinking how cool of a moment it was to turn to my side and see Brian May cheering me on. That was pretty special."
Bohemian Rhapsody is in UK cinemas now.