His Majesty, Rami Malek: 10 Things To Know About The Actor Playing Queen's Freddie Mercury
Despite his being a name you might have only learned of as of late, Rami Malek is well on his way to becoming a household personality with his electrifying portrayal of Freddie Mercury, British rock band Queen's legend of a frontman, in this month's Bohemian Rhapsody.
In a landmark performance, the 37-year-old first stunned critics, and then came the generously given ovation by the flamboyant singer's lifelong followers—the latter being the true measure of Rami's achievement, as depicting the one and only Mr. Fahrenheit has been a dream of many an actor, director, and producer, but one that remained unrealized due to the complexity of the task.
Bringing to life the rise and rise (there was never any falling for Freddie, not even in death) of the rockstar for multiple generations to enjoy has put Rami on the map. He does on the big screen what Freddie did for his legions of fans onstage during his 15-year-short career: use his talent not as a means of self-promotion, but rather, as a vehicle for inspiring freedom of expression, embracing oneself, and living life's full range of experiences—including the ugly ones.
With every hip sashay, finger flick, and mustached smile, Rami and his character become deliciously indistinguisable. All throughout the film's two hours and 15 minutes, Rami (or is it Freddie?) is a blast to watch—nay, experience. Freddie was in no way a two-dimensional performer, and neither is Rami. You'll just have to see the movie to believe it.
In the meantime, we further flesh out the gem of an actor that is Rami, an artist who in more ways than one, perfectly matches his onscreen persona of Freddie Mercury, the greatest music icon to ever rock the world in the 20th century.
Here are 10 things to know about him:
This almost didn't happen for him
Just as the gods of fate favored Freddie, so did they with Rami. Englishman Sacha Baron Cohen (who you might know from X-rated laugh bags Borat, The Dictator and Bruno) originally landed the role of Freddie Mercury, but for unpublicized reasons, parted ways with the project. "Creative differences" were cited for the split, leaving production to land their eyes on Rami, an American.
The rest is history.
At several points in the film, Freddie's immigrant roots are highlighted. They're shown to be the springboard for the creation of his stagename that billions will come to know him as. He was once Farrokh Bulsara, the son of Parsi immigrants who fled to the United Kingdom. Rami, on the other hand, was born to first-generation Egyptian-American parents.
Movement, not voice
Rami made the realization that a movement coach was what he needed to become Freddie Mercury rather than a voice coach or a dance choreographer. Though he worked with all three for Bohemian Rhapsody and impressed with his newly learned vocal techniques and dance moves, it was his Freddie-like mannerisms that tipped the scales.
We're not just talking about Rami's training for his largescale concert scenes, either, where Freddie really came alive; even the timing of his glances, subtle grimmaces and even the way he walked from point A to point B in a room were all areas of study for Rami.
Perhaps the defining features, physically speaking, of Rami's performance were his teeth. The rather in-your-face set of faux chompers were his idea, and according to him, was the single prop on set that got him into character. More than the costumes, makeup, and music, it was the teeth that let him feel what Freddie felt.
They were, after all, a lifelong source of insecurity (and the rumored reason behind why he eventually grew his signature mustache come the 80s). The moment Rami put them in place, he felt himself compensating for his less-than-perfect smile with better posture, more elegant movements, and yes, wildly memorable performances the world would and could never forget.
Baptism by fire
The film climaxes in Queen's exalted 1985 Live Aid show, a 20-minute set considered by many rock critics to possibly be the best rock performance of all time. An event that never fails to excite Queen's fans, it's one that sent chills down the film's cast—and not in a particularly good way.
They were the first set of scenes that Rami and his on-screen bandmates worked on, with Rami joking that perhaps the move was a way to test their chemistry and presence; if they hadn't worked well together, the plug could have been pulled. He described being called in for the second day of shooting like winning an Oscar.
As if playing Freddie Mercury didn't put enough pressure on Rami on its own, he had to watch Queen (the band's three other members, Roger Taylor, John Deacon, and Brian May) perform. It was the most effective way to judge his authenticity, the only way to make the necessary adjustments to be the best version of the next best thing to real-life Freddie.
In addition to Rami's movement coaching, he moved to London in 2016, a few months before shooting began. It was there where he familiarized himself with the neighborhoods and spots Freddie frequented and dove head first into learning the singer's other areas of expertise including playing the piano.
In defense of himself
Despite the waves of praise coming in for Rami's performance and the film as a whole, both weren't without critics. Many pointed out how the film lacked scenes that emphasized Freddie's sexuality and his life-ending AIDS diagnosis, both of which defined his last years of life.
According to Rami, both subject matters were not without their screentime, but simply handled with care and sensitivity. The film was meant to end on a positive note, emphasizing Freddie's love of life, rather than the end of it as he knew it.
Before the rhapsody
In case you were wondering what Rami was up to before his rocket-like rise to fame with his latest project, he first made it to mainstream media with his take on Elliot Alderson, the lead in onging series Mr. Robot. The role landed him two consecutive Golden Globe nominations.
What social media?
Despite his star status, Rami often becomes the butt of jokes (all in good fun) because of his social media presence, or lack thereof. His Instagram is practically non-existent, and so are his accounts on other platforms. For those who know him best, they know that this is just part and parcel of the Rami Malek persona; he's a private and reserved guy, very unlike his latest role.
In fact, his willingness to transform into Freddie, which practically meant changing who he was at the very core, was what attracted the film's production team to him in the first place.
Bohemian Rhapsody is now playing in theaters.
Photos from @bohemianrhapsodymovie