Rami Malek has a super power. I had the demonstration last October, during the last remnants of Paris Fashion Week. We are at the Hotel Le Bristol and in the middle of our conversation, he suddenly turns towards a young woman who is whispering on the phone in the back of the room: she is an assistant of Cartier, a brand of which Malek is a zealous ambassador and reason for the its presence in France.
“Look, I hear everything,” he warns him politely. The assistant turns all red.
“My hearing is insanely perfect,” he smiles, proud of his Superman prowess. «To the point that if the director chews a chewing gum on the set, I look into the camera and say: “Spit it out please”».
So take note. Rami Malek not only has unforgettable eyes that seem to see everything in CinemaScope, but also a very fine ear. After all, precision is an idea that often comes up in our conversation… But first of all, let’s talk about his gaze: impossible to miss, it is the trait-d’union between the disparate and notable roles of the actor, from the tormented sociopathic hacker in the Mr. Robot series, to Freddie Mercury in pursuit of musical perfection in Bohemian Rhapsody, up to the evil James Bond antagonist in No Time to Die. “Does that guy ever blink?” Tom Hanks asked, like all of us, on GQ in 2019, commenting on Malek’s casting for the series The Pacific of which he was co-producer. “Unique” eyes, “wide open and sleepy at the same time”, which made him recruit in the role of the sarcastic corporal Shelton, always ready for a biting joke.
Yet, the Rami Malek who stands before me has nothing of the superhero. Of course, the look is penetrating, but the thought of him slips to his line in a Saturday Night Live sketch in which he had to talk about himself: «It’s as if the soul of a Victorian-era child were trapped in the eyes of a he”».
A joke, but not too much, given that at 41 the actor has an unusually young, almost ageless air. Certainly, a detail that has not damaged his career. Dressed in an understated military-collared shirt, waistcoat, and matching black slacks, Malek, a native of Torrance, California, has the air of a poet, a bohemian Parisian Left Bank artist. And, perhaps not surprisingly, our exchange begins with a decidedly French topic: Jean-Luc Godard, Agnès Varda and the Nouvelle Vague «have redefined cinema and I love when everything is redefined», he says that a quarter of an hour first she posed on the hotel stairs, totally at ease, hyper-professional, very fashion week under the lens of the GQ photographer. [More at Source]
A fearless chameleon with an eye for powerful stories about humans who – like him – favor extraordinary routes, Rami Malek is an innate storyteller. From his lead role as Elliot Alderson in the psychological drama Mr Robot (2015- 2019), to his Best Actor Oscar, Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild, and British Academy Film Awards performance as Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody (2018), and the super villain Lyutsifer Safin in No Time to Die (2021), 41-year-old Malek has slipped into the skin of many characters, shared multiple compelling narratives – and he’s just getting started. His latest cinematic venture, Amsterdam, a period mystery comedy set to be released this month, sees him with a star-studded cast that includes Christian Bale, Margot Robbie, John David Washington, and Robert De Niro.
Born in California to Egyptian immigrant parents, Malek’s moment of triumph at the 2019 Oscar’s ceremony was a cause for celebration the world over. His Middle Eastern features – large pools for eyes and chiseled face – coupled with his outspoken pride for his heritage make the thespian something of a contemporary Arab icon. Malek still credits his youthful charades for igniting his interest in his career of choice. “I was really shy when I was a child. I had all this bottled-up energy that I did not feel like I could communicate, or that I was comfortable communicating in public. But when I was alone and at ease, all that stored up energy would get channeled into play, into what I would now call ‘characters,’ all with fully developed voices and characteristics. I had such a strong imagination for what kind of people they were.” Malek adds with a hint of nostalgia, “It was instantaneous and powerful, so liberating and just fun. Though it would take me months to develop a character as realized as those now.”
Around the world, acting is rarely perceived as a conventional path, but such a career choice is abhorred by Middle Eastern parents, who always wish for stability and convenience for their children. “I think any parent is frightened when their kid announces they are going to attempt to enter a particularly precarious industry. They had immigrated from Egypt with the intention of creating more opportunities for their kids than they had, but I still do not think ‘I want to be an actor’ fills your heart with relief [as a parent],” says Malek of his family’s initial resistance to his career choice.
With a resolute intention to build a film repertoire peppered with impactful human stories, Malek opted for storylines from various ethnic backgrounds, always conscious to not comply to stereotypical expectations. As a pathfinder for today’s Arab talents who aim to cement their presence in a global industry, Malek believes that his winning formula starts with refusing to be boxed in according to one’s racial identity. “In an industry where you feel lucky just being seen, it is hard to take that first step in setting boundaries, but it is a vital decision, and you will not regret it because your life and dignity are more than this job. And of course, then it changes, or creates the possibility for change for the next person who comes along after you.” On the current generation of thriving Arab creatives, Malek says witnessing the Vogue Arabia curated team of Egyptians working on his cover shoot was “one of the highlights for me this year.” He continues, “I was so inspired by all the artists from my background, who were sharing their unique talents on this scale. Egypt and its neighboring countries have such an expansive history of great art, artists, and extraordinary culture. It was so fulfilling to watch this next generation in action, continuing that legacy.” [More at Source]
Rami Malek knows what people might expect from Bohemian Rhapsody. “It could easily have been a monumental piece of shit, right?”
Consider the case for the prosecution: it is a biopic, that most maligned of movie genres, and one that has wrong-footed the most surefooted talents: remember Leonardo DiCaprio as J Edgar Hoover? He may well hope you don’t. Worse, it is a music biopic, a sub-genre that has proven even more problematic: Dennis Quaid as Jerry Lee Lewis?
Finally, Bohemian Rhapsody is a biopic of Queen, most obviously of Freddie Mercury, one of the handful of frontmen in the history of rock who can be said to be touched by genius. Its set piece is the Live Aid Wembley concert, which not only involved assembling 72,000 fans dressed like it was 1985 but also recreating one of the single defining performances in pop, one that was watched by 40 per cent of the planet, live. (“Day-o… Day-o” etc.)
While we’re discussing difficulties, we might throw in the surviving members of Queen’s fondness for not always showing off their legacy in the best light, elements of which one suspects might have had poor old Freddie pirouetting in his grave. There is, of course, the deathless Queen musical, We Will Rock You, from a book by Ben Elton, which seems to have been playing in London longer than Trooping the Colour, despite universally horrible reviews. There have been Queen computer games, Queen collaborations with the boyband 5ive and the rapper Wyclef Jean, and a Queen Monopoly boardgame. (“Because as Freddie used to say, when they asked him if he liked being rich, ‘Yes, I like getting lots of money because it tells me that people like what I do’,” explained guitarist Brian May to a perplexed reporter. “So there is the same kind of ethos behind this game.”)
Then there is Bohemian Rhapsody’s own troubled birth. The film has been in production in some form or another since 2000. The casting of Sacha Baron Cohen as Mercury bit the dust after May reportedly found him “too distracting”. Then director Bryan Singer walked off set with two weeks filming still to go, to be replaced by Dexter Fletcher, who, to be fair, did have biopic experience: his last film was ski-jumping drama Eddie the Eagle (2016).
And yet, despite all this, the 40-or-so minutes of Bohemian Rhapsody that Esquire has seen very much suggest a victory snatched from the jaws of defeat. And the revelation is Malek’s performance: on and off-stage, he is a terrific Mercury. [More at Source]
On his very first day as Mr Freddie Mercury on the set of Bohemian Rhapsody, Mr Rami Malek took the stage, literally, for what he now calls “the most difficult and complex part of the movie,” recreating Queen’s incredible performance for Live Aid, at Wembley Stadium, in 1985. “We had to shoot it first because of weather,” Mr Malek says, “Otherwise all those background actors in summer attire would be freezing!”
We’re at Cecconi’s in Beverly Hills, a sceney lunch spot in full swing, and Mr Malek’s on his second Campari and soda. Like many of the characters for which he is best known, including Elliot Alderson, the paranoiac hacktivist in Mr Robot, he’s a little intense in person, with a deliberate, elongated way of speaking and a probing look. He’s not a fan of interviews, as a rule. He watches the recorder on the table carefully and thinks before he speaks.
“I had two weeks, after finishing the third season of Mr Robot, before stepping onto the Live Aid stage. And we shot the whole concert over seven days. Move for move. Identical.” His is an extraordinary performance, and Mr Malek is rightly proud of his work. “I’m thrilled with the whole movie,” he says. “That might be an asshole thing to say, but I worked harder on this than anything, and it could so easily have been a disaster.”
Mr Malek, 37, has come to be known for his facility with complex characters – often playing those with dark interior lives, characters such as Snafu, a disturbed marine in the 2010 HBO mini-series The Pacific, or Clark, the loyal son-in-law to Mr Philip Seymour Hoffman’s charlatan magus in Mr Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master. “There’s so much we bury deep inside of ourselves,” Mr Malek says now, “and I’m fascinated by why and how. All these questions that we subconsciously ask, like: who are we, what are we doing here, are we essentially good or evil?” [More at Source]
Turns out, the leading man of tomorrow might be anything but conventional. And so he should be. With Egypt in his heart and greatness in his sights, Rami Malek is forging something remarkable.
Late 2017. A large paddock, somewhere in England. Rami Malek struts onto stage. A pit of fake photographers crane their heads up, tracing him across the stage with prop cameras. Malek raises a fist. He pumps it. An invisible crowd of tens of thousands is in the palm of his hand.
It’s the first day of filming for Bohemian Rhapsody, the Queen biopic. You don’t need to squint to feel like it’s Live Aid, the most transcendent gig in Queen’s history. You don’t need to squint to believe that Rami Malek is Freddie Mercury – it’s right there in the impossible jawline, the way he kicks a leg out, how he adjusts his posture with a shimmy. Six months earlier, Malek would have told you that he was scared. Biopics invite a gleefully harsh level of scrutiny. The stakes on a project like this, depicting maybe the greatest performer to have ever lived? Gargantuan. Even a near-miss could derail an actor’s career. (Six months earlier, before accepting this role, Malek was getting well-meaning looks at photo shoots that said, don’t do it.)
If you don’t yet know Rami Malek, start with this: on the very first day of the biggest job of his life, he proceeded straight to the deep end of the pool, and dove in.
If we’re living in the era of loud – the era of hyper-exposure, hyper-sharing and hyper-opinion – then Rami Malek might be the quietest celebrity that could exist in 2018. Not shy, not unopinionated, but quiet. (In an interview published last month, The New York Times bemoaned that he was “extremely reluctant to dish about himself.”)
Maybe you chalk that up to patience. This has been a grind. There was the one-off bit role on Gilmore Girls, the prominent arc on 24, a series of appearances in the Night at the Museum films. There was a string of collaborations with towering figures, including Spielberg, Hanks, Thomas Anderson and Seymour Hoffman.
Then, there was the breakthrough, Mr. Robot. For all the talent Malek has rubbed shoulders with, there may be no greater influence on him than the director Sam Esmail, a fellow Egyptian-American. Esmail, raised in a Muslim family in New Jersey, has built a body of work inspired in part by the feelings of alienation he felt growing up in America.
It was the pair’s collaboration on Mr. Robot – the dystopian TV technodrama – that brought Malek unanimous acclaim and eventually tipped his career from ‘emerging’ to ‘arriving’.
The show premiered in 2015 as something of a low-key masterpiece, in the way that Mad Men was: tucked away on a niche television network, with a leading talent and director that hadn’t yet exploded into the zeitgeist. Stepping into the role of Elliot, a talented hacker, Malek is paranoid and sensitive, relatable and scary. Above all else, he’s patently watchable.
Funny thing: even after so much waiting, when success comes, it tends to arrive in a hurry. [Source]