Here’s how he met Mary Austin, his first fiancée, and Jim Hutton, his romantic partner of seven years.
Who were the great loves of Freddie Mercury’s life? Per the Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, it comes down to two people: Mary Austin and Jim Hutton. However, the film leaves out many details about both relationships, tweaking and glossing over precious facts. Here are the true stories of Austin and Hutton, who entered Mercury’s life at crucial times and remained close to him until his death in 1991.
In 1969, Austin was a 19-year-old employee at an English boutique called Biba when she met the 24-year-old Mercury. At the time, he was an aspiring singer, but hadn’t yet become one of the biggest rock stars on the planet. Still, Austin was intrigued by the “wild-looking artistic musician.”
“He was like no one I had met before,” she told the Daily Mail in 2013. “He was very confident—something I have never been. We grew together.”
The pair quickly began dating. Bohemian Rhapsody steers close to this origin story, with Lucy Boynton playing Austin. In 1973, Mercury proposed. “He gave me a big box on Christmas Day. Inside was another box, then another and so it went on. It was like one of his playful games,” she recalled. “Eventually, I found a lovely jade ring inside the last small box. . . . I was shocked. It just so wasn’t what I was expecting. I just whispered, ‘Yes. I will.’”
Mercury also cemented his adoration for Austin with the ballad “Love of My Life,” (which gets a fair bit of play in Bohemian Rhapsody). He also took her to meet his parents. “She was lovely,” Mercury’s mother, Jer Bulsara, said in a 2012 interview.
However, the wedding was called off after Mercury came out to Austin as bisexual, she told the Daily Mail. Though they ended their romantic relationship, they remained incredibly close, with Mercury buying her a home and always speaking fondly of her in public.
“All my lovers asked me why they couldn’t replace Mary, but it’s simply impossible,” Mercury said in a 1985 interview. “The only friend I’ve got is Mary, and I don’t want anybody else. To me, she was my common-law wife. To me, it was a marriage. We believe in each other, that’s enough for me.”
Austin, who later married and had two children, tended to Mercury after his AIDS diagnosis. When the singer died in 1991, he entrusted much of his estate and his London mansion, Garden Lodge, to her, which she still maintains. Austin also fulfilled his wish for his cremated remains to be scattered in an undisclosed location. “Nobody will ever know where he is buried because that was his wish,” she once said. “He wanted it to remain a secret and it will remain so.”
In the film, Jim Hutton (played by Aaron McCusker) is presented as a member of a cleanup crew who has a testy, but ultimately flirtatious tête-à-tête with Mercury after one of his raucous house parties. In actuality, the Irishman, born and brought up in County Carlow, was a hairdresser who met the Queen frontman at a gay bar in the 1980s, according to an interview Hutton did with the The Times of London in 2006. Though they would eventually settle into a seven-year relationship, ending with Mercury’s death in 1991, it was far from love at first sight.
Per that interview, Hutton said he first met Mercury at Heaven, a gay nightclub in London. The singer, who was three years older, offered to buy him a drink. Hutton, who didn’t recognize the superstar, rejected the offer. They didn’t connect until a year and a half later, Hutton said in a 1994 interview, when they saw each other, once again, at a nightclub and Mercury offered to buy him a drink again. This time, Hutton accepted. They began dating and, less than a year later, Hutton moved into Garden Lodge. He kept his job as a hairdresser.
They stayed together, though Mercury never publicly came out, which didn’t matter much to Hutton. However, the couple did face ups and downs. “I saw him with another guy in Heaven and we had a huge row. He told me he did it to make me jealous,” Hutton recalled to the Times. “Then one day I saw him leaving his Kensington flat with another guy and we had an argument. I told him he had to make his mind up.”
Over the course of their relationship, Hutton witnessed historic moments, like Queen’s soaring Live Aid performance in 1985. “I was gobsmacked. You could feel the effect his stage presence had on the crowd,” he said of the show, which he watched backstage. “Afterwards Elton John came and said, ‘Bastard, you’ve stolen it.’”
In their downtime, Hutton said the Queen star was quiet and reserved, a world away from his showman persona. “He loved his cats. I’d get in from work. We’d lie together on the sofa. He would massage my feet and ask about my day,” Hutton said. The pair kept on for the next few years, until Mercury’s diagnosis with AIDS in 1987. It was an excruciating time, with friends like Joe Fanelli, Mercury’s cook, and Peter Freestone, his assistant, taking turns nursing the ailing singer.
The couple’s last conversation, Hutton says, took place a few days before Mercury died. “It was 6 A.M. He wanted to look at his paintings. ‘How am I going to get downstairs?’ he asked. ‘I’ll carry you,’ I said. But he made his own way, holding on to the banister. I kept in front to make sure he didn’t fall. I brought a chair to the door, sat him in it, and flicked on the spotlights, which lit each picture. He said, ‘Oh they’re wonderful’.”
After the singer’s death, Austin took over Garden Lodge, reportedly kicking Hutton out, despite Hutton’s claim that Mercury wanted him to stay there. He was devastated by her decision, he said. However, Mercury did leave him with £500,000 (nearly $1 million, per the 1991 conversion rate), which he used to move back to Ireland. He also wrote a book about their relationship, simply titled Mercury and Me.
Hutton died on January 1, 2010, after a long battle with cancer. He was 60 years old.