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]