There are three things Marc Martel says he won’t do to impersonate Freddie Mercury. He won’t wear Mercury’s trademark yellow jacket. He won’t go onstage wielding Mercury’s favoured half microphone stand. And he won’t grow a full moustache.
Here’s the one thing Martel needs to do: open his mouth. Through genetics and musical aptitude, the 42-year-old singer is a vocal doppelgänger for the Queen frontman.
That’s a gift that has led Martel, formerly the leader of a Christian band in Canada, to a lucrative second career in recent years — and a prominent but invisible role in Bohemian Rhapsody, the hit biopic nominated for five Academy Awards. It’s not the life Martel planned, but it’s landed him on American Idol and in front of crowds of thousands worldwide.
“I keep realizing how weird a situation I’m in,” he said in a phone interview. “I’m trying to keep a good head about it.”
Rami Malek embodies Mercury onscreen, but as he told The New York Times last year, “No one wants to hear me sing.” During the performance sequences in Bohemian Rhapsody, the movie sometimes employs Mercury’s actual vocals from the Queen archives, but that wasn’t always practical — some scenes demanded a stunt vocal-cord performer.