Until Bohemian Rhapsody, Rami Malek was best known as Mr. Robot’s Elliot Alderson. With Bohemian Rhapsody, Malek is now better known for his Oscar-winning portrayal of Freddie Mercury. If Malek doesn’t suffer from the Oscar curse we’ll probably see him around for a while. Here are 33 bohemian facts about this rising star.
Malek is the first actor of Egyptian descent to win an Oscar. He was born in Los Angeles to Coptic Egyptian immigrants and grew up speaking only Arabic at home until the age of four. Malek also recalls his dad waking him up some nights so that he could talk to his extended family in their hometown of Samalut.
Malek’s Egyptian roots probably helped him land his first big-screen role, that of Pharaoh Ahkmenrah in Night at the Museum and its two sequels. Malek realized his first big roles played on his background, but he also knew how tough it was to break into Hollywood, so he was willing to take what was offered.
3. We Made It
Malek has also broken new ground in the TV world, becoming the first actor of color in over 18 years to win an Emmy for Best Lead Actor in a TV series. Malek received the 2016 award for his role in Mr. Robot.
4. Will it Blend?
Freddie Mercury’s vocals in Bohemian Rhapsody are a mix of Malek’s and Marc Martel’s (a Freddie Mercury impersonator). Malek said the experience was taxing on his throat, since it involved singing for hours a day, for six months. How do you think Freddie felt?
5. Forked Road
Malek’s parents were supportive of his desire to become an actor, but it wasn’t their ideal path. They envisioned their son being a lawyer, but it was a high school debate teacher who advised Malek that acting was a better fit. This led to Malek pursuing theatre at the University of Evansville, and giving us an Oscar-winning portrayal of Freddie Mercury.
6. Like Mama Used to Make
Like a lot of actors, Malek worked in a restaurant while trying to make a name for himself. Somewhat stereotypically, he worked in a Mediterranean restaurant, making falafel and shwarma.
Part of Malek’s preparation for the role of Freddie Mercury involved spending time with Queen guitarist, Brian May. On one outing, May even took Malek to a private members’ club, where Malek got to meet Paul Gambaccini. Malek had previously seen Gambaccini’s interviews of Mercury, so meeting the presenter in person was surreal.
Mercury didn’t leave behind any memoirs but Malek felt like Queen songs were a memoir of their own. In particular, he focused on “Lily of the Valley” and “You Take My Breath Away,” believing their lyrics revealed a lot about Mercury’s personality. However, he admits those aren’t exactly the most popular choices: “No-one’s singing those ones at karaoke.”
Malek needed to wear fake teeth for Bohemian Rhapsody in order to mimic Mercury’s mouth, which was packing four extra incisors. Malek actually started wearing the false teeth while working on Mr. Robot, practicing his speech between takes so that he wouldn’t slur or lisp when he started working on Bohemian Rhapsody. Once filming ended, Malek had the teeth cast in gold.
Malek has revealed that he once dated Christian Slater’s stepsister. The Mr. Robot co-stars are linked since Malek and Emily Slater went to high school together. Malek also had a musical theatre class with Kirsten Dunst, who graduated from high school a year after him. However, the two did take a musical theatre class together.
Malek’s first part was as a guest starring role on Gilmore Girls. Malek made his debut as Andy in season four, a member of the bible group Lane briefly attends. Since Malek was not a SAG (Screen Actors Guild) member at the time of his casting, he actually had to pay a $2,000 fine to the guild just so he could play the part. The debt took a while to pay off, but Malek was still happy to oblige, having faith that it would lead to more opportunities. Malek also did some voice acting, playing “additional characters” in Halo 2.
12. Break the Mould
Malek played a suicide bomber in the eighth season of 24 and is not oblivious to the danger of being typecast in these sorts of roles. He recalls seeing other Middle Eastern actors even changing their names to avoid being typecast by agents, and Malek felt that a name change wasn’t necessary to get where he wanted. Now that he’s an Oscar winner, he probably doesn’t have to worry about playing a terrorist if he doesn’t want to.
13. Saving Private Malek
Malek’s role as Merriell “Snafu” Shelton in The Pacific led to him getting his role in Mr. Robot, since the war-hardened soldier he played had similarities to the socially-reclusive hacker in the latter show. Malek originally auditioned for one of the lead roles in The Pacific, as opposed to a supporting one, but adjusted and pursued Snafu during the audition process. Once he switched to Snafu, Malek also got a dialect coach to help him master the Louisiana accent needed for the role.
14. We are the Champions
One of the many reasons Malek was grateful for his success is due to the lack of diversity he saw on TV growing up. He never thought he would play Freddie Mercury because he didn’t realize Mercury’s birth name was Farrokh Bulsara, “I never saw anyone in a lead role that looked like me.”
15. The Avatar
Oscar-winner Malek actually appeared in Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2. Yet again, he played an Egyptian character, Benjamin, from the Egyptian vampire coven. Benjamin was able to manipulate the four elements, and the Cullens seek his help against their enemies.
Following The Pacific, Malek retreated to Argentina to unwind. The role left a psychological impact on him, due to playing a war-hardened veteran. At one point, Malek thought he would live there but he scrapped the idea pretty quickly. One thing that has stuck with him since Argentina is mixing fernet and Coca-Cola: “It’s got 40…medicinal herbs in it… It’s gross, and I think it’s so…delicious.”
17. Office Romance
Malek doesn’t reveal too much about his personal life in interviews, but has confirmed he is now dating his Bohemian Rhapsody co-star Lucy Boynton.
18. Dr. Evil
Malek is reportedly in the final stages of grabbing a role as the next Bond villain. Malek has verified he can’t reveal too many details, but verified he is in talks for the part and that the role would be a dream one. Malek could potentially play opposite Daniel Craig in Shatterhand—though keep in mind, that’s only a working title.
19. Malek’s Anatomy
Aside from a twin brother, Malek also has a sister, Yasmine, who is an ER doctor. Malek remarks that she has his good genes as well, with people often questioning whether she is old enough to do her job.
20. Go West, Young Man
Back in Egypt, Malek’s father was a tour guide. He actually decided to leave Cairo after seeing so many Western visitors and becoming interested in the world that they came from.
21. Cultural Roots
While they were living in the US, Malek’s parents made sure to preserve their children’s sense of their Egyptian culture, so Malek truly feels like he’s an Egyptian, through and through: “There’s no first-generation, or second-generation removed. I am Egyptian. I grew up listening to Egyptian music. I loved Umm Kulthum. I loved Omar Sharif. These are my people. I feel so gorgeously tied to the culture and the human beings that exist there. I acknowledge that I have a different experience, but I am so enamored and intertwined with Egyptian culture. It is the fabric of who I am.”
22. No, Not Sammy
Like many first-generation immigrants, Malek had trouble fitting in with American society. He was constantly beset with questions about where he was from and dealt with people constantly mispronouncing his name, and it wasn’t until high school that he gained the confidence to correct them.
23. California Here We Come
Growing up in LA, you’re bound to go to the same school as a few actors. On top of Slater and Dunst, Malek was actually in the same class as The OC star Rachel Bilson.
24. The Big Apple
After college, Malek, like many aspiring actors, moved to New York. To make ends meet, he had to share a one-bedroom apartment with several friends. Like him, they were actors and directors, and they would put on small productions all over the city.
25. Escape From New York
After struggling to find success in New York, Malek met Mali Finn, a casting director, in Los Angeles while he was home visiting his family. Finn convinced him that Hollywood was the place to find work, and so he moved back home.
26. Agent Who?
One could say that Malek wasn’t quite ready for success. After over a year looking for parts in LA, he got a call from another casting director, Mara Casey. Casey immediately asked Malek if she could talk to his agent, but there was only one problem: he didn’t have one yet. He managed to convince her to meet with him anyway, and that meeting led to his first professional role.
27. Dark Days
Malek’s early days searching for roles in Los Angeles were extremely tough. He struggled to find work, and had to deal with the almost constant rejection that comes with being an aspiring actor. Malek has admitted that he dealt with depression in this time period, and that he seriously considered abandoning acting and getting his real-estate license.
28. He Who Must Not Be Named
Bohemian Rhapsody director Bryan Singer is currently under fire for sexual abuse allegations, and people were quick to realize Malek didn’t acknowledge Singer in his Oscar acceptance speech. The “official” reason for Singer’s firing is truancy and Malek admits that he didn’t enjoy working with Singer, although he won’t give too many details: “not pleasant, not pleasant at all.”
Malek went viral late in February due to a video taken by a fan, 19-year-old Xan Black. Black, a film major, approached Malek to ask for him to say “hi” to his fans. Malek was quick to say “No, but we can take a picture, is that alright?” Malek later addressed the video, saying that he loves his fans but that he is sometimes “protective” of his time.
30. Tough Crowd
While Malek has received plenty of love from Egypt due to his Oscar win, he is also the subject of some controversy. Egyptian MP Mohamed Ismail has accused Bohemian Rhapsody of attempting to corrupt youth due to its portrayal of homosexuality. Ismail makes sure to add that Malek would have “been hanged” if he was in Egypt.
31. Peas in a Pod
Rami has a twin brother, Sami, who is a teacher in California. Before you ask, Rami has admitted that he has pretended to be his brother before: To help his brother pass his teaching degree. Sami had to do a monologue from a Greek tragedy as part of his schooling, something he was completely terrified of doing, so he called Rami, asking if he knew any Greek monologues by chance. Rami had one in mind, due to numerous auditions, and was able to nail the part for his brother (with the school totally oblivious of the switch).
32. Just a Little Crooked
Accepting an Academy Award is something that every actor dreams of doing one day, but for Malek, the night didn’t exactly go as planned. After at least three different people, including Lady Gaga, attempted to straighten his bowtie over the course of the night, Malek had his name called and went up to accept his award with his (still) askew tie in full glory.
33. Going Down
Malek delivered an acceptance speech in which he acknowledged his Egyptian heritage and emphasized the importance of telling stories about queer people, then began to head offstage. The only problem was, he got there a little too quickly! Malek fell right off the stage, and while he was OK, several EMTs were sent over to make sure he wasn’t injured, and some orange cones were placed by the stage.
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