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]