OSCARS 2019 EXCLUSIVE: Oscar Nominee John Ottman Talks BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY
With so many "intriguing" stories - lack of a host, format changes, etc. - centered around Hollywood's biggest night, many folks are unfortunately losing sight of the event's core mission: to highlight the work of its artists. Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with award-winning composer/editor, John Ottman, who is nominated, this year, for Achievement in Editing with the biopic, BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY. In our conversation together, we chatted about: the daunting prospect of working on a biopic, his process working on the production, the exclusion of editing in the televised broadcast of the awards show (at the time of the interview), and much more....
BT: Thanks for taking the time to speak with me today.
BT: I'll start first by asking, "Was it daunting to learn that you would be working on this project - especially considering the iconic, revered status this band holds for fans?
JO: Absolutely. I'd say there was "a weight on my shoulders" for many reasons working on this film. (Smiling)
JO: When you walk into a film like this - particularly, one about such an iconic person of such an iconic band, who is held in such high regard - you feel obligated to do justice to him (Mercury). Aside from that, with original band members, Brian May and Roger Taylor, still being around, you had to make to sure not piss them off - with how they're portrayed in the concerts or how Freddie is portrayed (since they're very protective of him). So there were a lot of things to worry about....Besides, I'm a natural worrier (Smiling)
JO: [In addition to all of that] the film had to do so many different things in the span of 2+ hours. It had to service: Freddie's life, the band's life, Queen's music...All the while, still being interpreted as a celebration of Freddie Mercury. So it was a lot of things to juggle - as most biopics are - in the span of time that the studio was willing...(Laughing)
...to allow us to have. I, for example, would have loved to have added another two or three minutes [to do some other things], but "if you walk away with most of what you wanted, then you're successful." I'd say, we (those of us working on the film) got about 90 % of what we wanted.
JO: As always, any film is a give and take with different creatives.
BT: Okay, alright. Now, considering what you just said, you are in a more unique position than most editors, because you're also a composer; in fact, you worked on the music for this film. Therefore is safe to assume that you were involved a lot earlier in this film's process than what is perhaps the norm with other editors? If so, did the choice of songs featured in the film ever change or was it always decided from the get go?
JO: I came on two weeks before the film started shooting. So, a lot of the major set pieces were already decided upon...Obviously, in the end [of the production process], timelines got juggled and the story [of the film] was retold in the editing room. For instance, the two concerts [featured] had their order flipped. Also, to underscore certain sequences, I decided to use some Queen music in places where it wasn't planned, such as "Who Wants To Live Forever" when Freddie's gets his diagnosis.