When the trailer for Bohemian Rhapsody came out, the new Freddie Mercury biopic drew criticism from fans for erasing the singer’s bisexuality. While the film does acknowledge that, it focuses mainly on Mercury’s relationship with Mary Austin. This is somewhat justified; their friend Mick Rock said in a documentary that she was the love of Mercury’s life.
But Mercury had another love, a man he lived with for seven years. While we catch a glimpse of Freddie Mercury and Jim Hutton’s budding relationship in the film, it ends at the beginning. So who was Hutton, the man who was arguably the second love of Freddie Mercury’s life? (The third was his cats, of course.)
In the film, Mercury meets Hutton (Aaron McCusker) after one of his wild parties (Hutton was serving food) and tracks him down using a phonebook (it turns out there are a lot of Jim Huttons in London). The movie ends with the beginning of their relationship, after Mercury’s triumphant Live Aid performance. In reality, the two got together just before Live Aid— and remained together until the very end.
Freddie Mercury (born Farrokh Bulsara) moved from Tanzania to England as a teenager. He attended Ealing Art College, where he would meet his future bandmates of Queen. He lived with Austin for a time before meeting Hutton; the two broke off their engagement after he came out as bisexual, but remained friends. Queen had already begun to take off when Mercury first met Jim Hutton.
“We met in a club, he offered to buy me a drink,” Hutton recalled in a 1994 interview. “I didn’t know who he was, really.” They didn’t see each other for about 18 months after initially meeting. Less than a year later, Hutton moved in with Mercury. “He orchestrated that really well,” the Hutton recalled.
Hutton initially worked as Mercury’s gardener, before long Mercury came to refer to Hutton as “his husband.” Gay marriage was not legal at the time, but the two wore wedding rings anyway. (Mercury also gave Austin a ring, despite them never having been legally married either.) Hutton continued to work as a hairdresser during their relationship, preferring to avoid the public eye. Mercury was not out to the public, though he did not go out of his way to hide the relationship.
One thing the film got right: Hutton was at the famous Live Aid concert in 1985. “I was gobsmacked,” he said of the performance, “You could feel the effect his stage presence had on the crowd.”
While the film addresses Mercury’s struggle with AIDS, in reality, the singer was not diagnosed until 1987. Hutton was in Ireland when Mercury got his diagnosis; upon his return, the singer told him, giving Hutton the option to leave. "Don’t be stupid, I’m not going anywhere.” Hutton reportedly responded, “I’m here for the long haul."
Hutton says his initial reaction was “total disbelief.” He added, “It didn’t sink in until the last few weeks that he was actually dying.” Hutton and Mercury’s other friends remained with him until the very end. Mercury left half of his estate to his ex-wife, Austin; she kicked Hutton out of Mercury’s house following his death.
Hutton moved back to his native Ireland, where he lived until he passed away from cancer in 2010. In 1994, three years after Mercury’s death, Hutton wrote a book about their relationship called Mercury & Me. “I decided to write the book for my own benefit,” he said upon its release, “to ease the pain.”