Oscars in doubt for ‘Rhapsody’

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Oscars in doubt for ‘Rhapsody’

Director Bryan Singer hasn’t been involved with the Queen biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody’’ for over a year, but with a fresh expose alleging that he sexually assaulted minors and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts suspending his nomination, will he be the film’s Oscars Achilles’ heel?

“Bohemian Rhapsody’’ has had a lifetime’s worth of trials and setbacks on its 10-year journey to the big screen. And yet despite everything working against it - from Singer’s surprise firing mid-production for absences and clashes with the cast, to negative reviews - it seems to have come out of the fires unscathed. The $50 million production became a global box-office phenomenon, grossing over $209 million in North America alone and over $834 million worldwide to become the most successful musical biopic of all time. It developed into a top awards contender too, winning the best drama and best actor for Rami Malek at the Golden Globes, while also receiving two key Screen Actors Guild nominations, a Producers Guild nod and five Oscar nominations, including best actor and best picture.

But then, on Jan. 23, almost exactly a month before the Oscars and one day after its nominations, The Atlantic published an article in which four men claim they were sexually abused by Singer while underage. Singer has denied the allegations.

The next day, the advocacy group Glaad removed the film from its Media Awards nominees, and four days later, “Bohemian Rhapsody’’ lost the coveted SAG ensemble award to “Black Panther.’’

This week, just days before the British Academy film awards, Bafta announced Singer’s nomination suspension because the alleged behavior was “completely unacceptable and incompatible’’ with its values.

Those involved with the film have, in general, opted not to talk about their ousted director. Singer was kept far away from the publicity tour but retained his directing credit and could stand to make $40 million, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Producer Graham King became the public face of the production along with Malek.

“I don’t see too many people even upset about the controversy. That Atlantic piece came out after nominations. I still think the movie would be nominated if it had run before. It’s not like it contained anything surprising. Everybody has heard these whispers and these stories,’’ said Glenn Whipp, the awards columnist for the Los Angeles Times.

With just a few weeks to go before the Academy Awards, hardly anyone is predicting a “Bohemian Rhapsody’’ best-picture win. New York Times Carpetbagger columnist Kyle Buchanan called it, “practically inconceivable.’’ But the general sentiment is that a loss won’t be because of Singer.

Malek, on the other hand, seems to be a lock for best actor in spite of everything.

“There’s a real divide between what academy members seem to think about the movie and what they think about Rami Malek and his work in the movie,’’ Whipp said.

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