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.