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]
“Let’s see. Which way am I going?”
The question is, of course, rhetorical. Looking back as he speaks, Malek nimbly navigates a maze of monitors, tripods, coiled cables and coffee tables in an already labyrinthine suite at The London hotel in the West Hollywood section of Los Angeles. “See, even back here I’m in my London bubble,” says Malek, a California native who’s outside Britain for the first time since before the Covid-19 pandemic struck properly back in March.
After a few sidesteps, Malek reaches behind drawn curtains, opens a pair of glass doors and we emerge onto a sprawling terrace with commanding views of the city. He sits on a long, L-shape sofa, the Hollywood sign visible in the distance behind him. “Ahhh. Here, this is a good two metres,” he says, his embrace of the metric system a sign of England’s effect on him. He gestures at his facemask: “Can I… Can I take this off?”
Although I say yes and remove my own face covering, Malek leaves his on, even while talking. “This is very much home and not just in heart,” says the 39-year-old actor, who grew up a few miles away. “So it’s been really sweet to spend time with my family in the last few days, even with the masks on.” In addition to seeing family, Malek is in Los Angeles to get back, however haltingly, to work. He’s spent the past several hours in various parts of this hotel suite recording a series of behind-the-scenes commentaries for No Time To Die – the 25th instalment of the James Bond franchise – in which Malek, if you didn’t know already, plays the mysterious arch-villain Safin.
Those promotional videos are, today, right here and now, among the mounting signs that the film is definitely, maybe, hopefully coming to theatres less than two months from this late September day. “Yeah, it seems like we’re actually going to release in November,” Malek adds. “Fingers crossed.” He shrugs as if to say, “Who knows?” [More at Source]
When he became the first person of Arab descent to win the Academy Award for Best Actor, Rami Malek had climbed the mountain. Now, with a starring role in an iconic franchise, he’s standing on one summit and staring up at a whole new peak
When Rami Malek stepped backstage after winning his Academy Award for Best Actor in 2019, his body felt so light it was almost numb. He was greeted by his agent, Doug Lucterhand, his publicist, Michelle Margolis, and a smattering of other people on his team. It didn’t take long for emotion to peak. A serving of his preferred agave-infused beverage arrived as if on cue. He savoured every drop.
From backstage, Malek could hear the rise and fall of noise as the show hit a denouement. It sounded like a faint TV broadcast, the vamping orchestra that gives way to commercial-break chatter, the way the clinking of glassware slows a little before an award is presented, and a distant announcement that the 91st Academy Awards were over. He was happy to sidestep the commotion entirely.
Malek’s clan for the Oscars was generous in size. Bohemian Rhapsody had marked many firsts for Malek. It was his first tentpole leading role. It was the first time he had a real live, on-set assistant. It was his first Academy Award nomination. It was his first Academy Award win. It felt imperative to Malek that all those who’d helped him arrive to that stage, and that win, were there. There in spirit is cool – there on guestlist is cooler. So, Jan Sewell, the film’s makeup designer, was there. Polly Bennett, the British movement coach whose expertise helped Malek so eerily resemble the late Freddie Mercury, was there. Emma Hammond, his first-ever real live assistant, was there. (Ever grateful, Malek says the Oscars were, “Extremely accommodating.”)
An armada of vehicles at the ready, the Malek collective began a night of revelry. First they stopped by a Fox party, where Queen – Brian May, Roger Taylor et al – were ready to toast. A man named John on Malek’s security detail kept the knightly Oscar statuette fortified. Things got a little crowded, so they moved on, and on, and on, venue-hopping and dancing, bumping into Hollywood peers and luminaries, realising and re-realising what had just happened, until night gave way to morning.
“There was nothing compelling me to go home,” says Malek. “I danced my ass off that night.”
Eventually, they retired to a house, where Malek ended his night consuming “copious amounts of pasta in bed”.
The next morning, Malek glanced down at his phone. It had been collecting iMessages, WhatsApps and missed calls at an unprecedented rate.
“That seems to go on for a few days. There are a few people that anticipate that your phone is getting blown up, so they kind of give you some time and space out their calls. I spent about a week just responding to everyone that reached out,” says Malek. “That’s so fulfilling: to have all of your friends and loved ones, in a way, be able to celebrate that moment with you. To a lot of these people, I’m still that kid they grew up with, and was giving acting a shot, and we would all see if it would work out.”
A little over 48 hours after his win, Malek was back on set, filming the fourth season of the Golden Globe award-winning series Mr. Robot, trying to make it work out all over again. [more at source]
If there’s one thing we know about 007, it’s that he always gets his man. His target this time: Rami Malek, the 38-year-old star of long-running Amazon Prime series Mr Robot, who knocked the entertainment industry’s socks off with his extraordinarily committed — and uncanny — performance as the late Queen frontman Freddie Mercury in the 2018 biopic Bohemian Rhapsody.
“Even before Bohemian Rhapsody he had a very, very good reputation,” says Daniel Craig, veteran of five Bond films including the forthcoming No Time to Die, which will be released in April. Along with the other Bond powers that be, including long-time producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson, and No Time to Die director Cary Joji Fukunaga, Craig was on the hunt for a new villain to take on in his final outing as the world’s most high-profile secret agent. “When it came down to casting this part, you have a wish-list of people you want to play it, and he was at the top of the list,” Craig tells me. “We lucked out. He was free.”
Malek himself wasn’t exactly under the radar — “He’d just won an Oscar,” as Craig points out — and it is easy to see the villainous potential in him. Apart from his reputation as a captivating actor, he has a remarkably versatile face: when he lowers his eyelids, his large, blue eyes look sleepy and cold; if he hollows his cheeks, his jaw juts and his cheekbones pop; he has a low, sonorous voice that he can flatten to a sinister monotone. (The cheekbones and jawline combo comes in handy at other times, too: Malek is currently the face of Saint Laurent’s SS ’20 menswear campaign.)
But nor was he, in fact, free: he was shooting the fourth and final season of Mr Robot in New York. Dates were jiggled, then re-jiggled, then re-jiggled again, until finally a couple of weeks were found right at the end of the Bond production schedule during which Malek could come to Pinewood Studios, just west of London, and film the bulk of his scenes.
“When someone tells me something’s a possibility, I just start to think, ‘Let’s make it work’,” says Malek, who is engaging and cheery in person, his eyes widening boyishly (because — whaddyaknow! — they can do that too). “I kind of just get laser-focused on it, especially when it excites me.”
It’s late December, and Malek and I are sitting in the lounge of a tastefully expensive hotel in Tribeca, New York, as inconsequential flurries of snow fall outside. (Well, to be precise, we sit in the lounge until about an hour into our interview, when a mysterious blonde with a beret and a small dog comes and sits opposite us, uncomfortably close. A hotel guest? An avid fan? An agent of Spectre? We relocate to a table in the conservatory, just in case.)
Dressed in what he describes as his staple outfit — neat navy sweater over a white shirt plus dark trousers and black boots — Malek is talking about the logistics of doing the new Bond film because, although his presence in No Time to Die is a significant reason for the timing of our interview, he also can’t really talk about it very much. So huge is the franchise — to give an idea of how huge, in October last year, The Telegraph described “James Bond and the UK’s booming film industry” as appearing to have “rescued the economy from a pre-Brexit recession” — and so well controlled its machinations, that it’s not worth any participant’s while to spill more details than they should.
“I have to be extremely careful,” says Malek, on his turn as the so-far-so-mysterious Safin. “I can’t really talk about the character.” He also can’t confirm whether he’s signed on for two films, as has been rumoured, or what it was that he came up with during a read-through that prompted Daniel Craig to kiss him — an anecdote that the pair have been testing out on American talk shows. Nor can he describe the outcome of the discussions with Fleabag writer Phoebe Waller-Bridge, brought in to help with the script and work out how an enlightened, “21st-century Bond” might react to certain plot predicaments. “You’ll end up seeing that in the film,” he’ll say with a not unapologetic shrug.
The week before we meet, there had been a press junket for the cast here in New York, including Malek, Craig, the French actress Léa Seydoux who reprises her role as Madeleine Swann, and British Bond newcomer Lashana Lynch, who plays Nomi, a rival “00” spy. A whole junket dedicated to not talking about the thing you’re there to talk about. It sounds taxing. Malek came up with a parrying strategy. “I often asked the journalists, ‘Do you really want to know? It will spoil the film for you, and it’s such an extraordinary event, in it being the 25th instalment and Daniel’s final one.’ I said, ‘Do you really want me to ruin this for you?’” [More at source]
Rami Malek is having a good hair day. “This is the best his hair’s been since February,” says the young woman twirling scented oil through Malek’s strands while the actor stands obediently still, slightly bashful, like anyone who is being publicly oiled. His hair looks exactly the way it does in every episode of Mr. Robot, which is at the tail end of shooting its final season here in Brooklyn. The hair is worth mentioning because it has spawned a mini men’s version of the Rachel, Jennifer Aniston’s hair on Friends, in that it is easily identifiable and widely imitated. “It’s a two on the sides that’s faded to a one and a half,” says the young woman with the oil, in case anyone wants to memorize that and take it to the barber. “And it’s disconnected from the top to the sides and faded up to the parietal ridge.”
“This is GQ, not National Geographic,”Malek says. “Disconnected is appropriate, though.”
It is. Malek had been acting for more than a decade when he got the part of Elliot Alderson on Mr. Robot, which came out in 2015 on USA, of all networks, and immediately generated a robust Reddit presence and an ardent audience of people for whom a dystopian but sensitive thriller felt appropriate in an age of deep fakes and flourishing conspiracies. Elliot works as a cybersecurity technician who gets embroiled in a hacktivist scheme to wrest financial justice from an evil corporation. He has a rocky relationship with humanity but a lucid one with the technological reality of the world we live in. You get the sense, in watching, that if you knew what he did, you’d microwave your SIM cards and self-medicate with morphine, too.
For three years Malek’s fame gently increased as the show’s influence grew. In 2016 he won an Emmy. Then he starred as Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody, which became the highest-grossing music biopic of all time, and he swept awards season, receiving a Golden Globe, a SAG Award, a BAFTA Award, and, of course, an Oscar, for which he gave a graceful acceptance speech that touched on his status as the son of immigrants. Next year he’ll play the villain in the new James Bond movie with Daniel Craig. Descriptions of his rise often involve violent metaphors (catapulting to stardom, exploding into the zeitgeist), which is inadvertently appropriate for someone who physically falls down as much as Malek. [More at Source]