Published On: Sat, Jan 20th, 2024

Freddie Mercury’s Darth Vader on how Star Wars’ George Lucas shut down stunt | Music | Entertainment

During Queen’s US tours of the late 1970s and early 1980s, the band recruited hulking great big members of the Northwestern American football team to be their security.

Becoming Head of Security at just 22, Walt “Wally” Versen admitted it was “a bit like hiring the Cambridge rowing team to be your security staff!”

During this period at the height of Queen’s fame, Freddie Mercury made the most of his love for theatrical stunts.

Before Walt was hired, security guards used to take it in turns bringing out the frontman on their shoulders while dressed as either Superman or Santa Claus.

But when Walt joined the team and was asked by the singer to do the same, he had a better idea.

Walt, who was promoting Queen Rock Montreal in IMAX for this week only, remembered being in Phoenix, Arizona in Queen’s dressing room where Freddie was sat down on the couch.

The singer brought up the Superman thing, but his Head of Security suggested Darth Vader instead. After all, Star Wars was really popular with The Empire Strikes Back having come out in 1980. Freddie agreed, so Walt looked up a costume shop in the Yellow Pages and the rest was history.

The bodyguard shared: “Fred sang We Will Rock You from my shoulders. I had quite a unique experience with that song. There’s only three of us left on the planet who heard it from underneath Freddie Mercury!” Yet after performing the stunt a dozen times throughout the tour, it was suddenly halted.

Walt told us: “And then we stopped doing it and we never really knew why until later I found out that [Star Wars creator] George Lucas had sent out a cease and desist letter putting an end to it.” Although a brief moment in Queen’s history, Freddie riding Darth Vader has become one of the band’s most iconic visual moments from the history of their lives performances.

On knowing and working with Freddie personally, Walt said that the spirit of the star’s character was well represented in the Bohemian Rhapsody movie. He shared: “What you saw in that movie was that Fred was a quiet, shy, thoughtful, introspective guy who loved spectacle and loved show business and loved when things were over the top. If he saw an opening that would make you laugh or make you think or feel something, he took that opportunity. He was extraordinary. They were all like that in that band.”

Queen Rock Montreal is screening in over 400 IMAX cinemas worldwide from January 18-21 and tickets can be booked here.

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