A first-generation American of Egyptian descent who plays another immigrant won best actor at the 91st Academy Awards on Sunday.
rami malek, 37, won his first oscar for his portrayal of the flamboyant singer freddie mercury, born farrokh bulsara, who fronted the british rock band queen, in bohemian rhapsody. it is also the first time that an actor of Arab descent has won the award.
was it a surprise win?
The film has done well at the box office, grossing $854 million, but was not universally acclaimed by critics. Critics, however, heaped praise on the actor, and Rolling Stone magazine said that, despite its flaws, Malek’s take on the legendary singer “saves the day.” In the run-up to the Oscars, Malek had won the Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild, and British BAFTA Awards.
why did you identify with the role?
In his acceptance speech and later speaking to the media, Malek drew comparisons between his life and Mercury’s to come to terms with their identities. Mercury was born to Parsi parents with Indian roots, who moved to the UK from Zanzibar when he was a teenager. Reflecting on his own life, Malek said: “That kid was struggling with his identity… I think for anyone who is struggling, we made a film about a gay man, an immigrant, who lived his life without apologize. the fact that I’m celebrating him and this story…is proof that we long for stories like this.”
when malek received a call during the third season of the tv series mr. robot for the role, he wondered how this young character, a hacker deeply alienated by so much social anxiety, could play Mercury. But later, when he began his in-depth investigation of him, Malek discovered that in Mercury’s “bold, communicative, powerful human being, there was a sense of loneliness and anxiety. I could link the two together.”
how did you prepare for it?
In 1991, Mercury was one of the first British celebrities to die of AIDS. she was 45 years old. The film deals with the origins of Queen and Mercury’s personal battles and public persona, her struggles with her sexuality and drug abuse.
malek, who couldn’t even play the piano when he took on the role, went through intensive training. He began taking singing, piano and guitar lessons, and said he spent months watching archive footage of Mercury to understand Mercury’s accent, movements, stage presence and the way he reacted to the audience. He also got prosthetic teeth for Mercury, who was sometimes called Bucky when he was a kid, to make him “feel more like Freddie.”
the film faithfully recreates one of the highlights of queen’s career frame by frame: the live aid benefit concert in london in july 1985. the members of queen, in particular guitarist brian may and drummer roger taylor, they were available to advise the filmmakers. in all aspects of music and the role of mercury. For Malek, it was even more intimidating because the iconic concert was filmed on the first day of shooting. A combination of Mercury’s actual voice, Malek’s voice, and another singer was reportedly used against the band’s original recordings of Queen’s hits, such as We Will Rock You and We Are The Champions, the two songs featuring which the band opened the night of the oscars with the help. of the singer adam lambert.
what does it mean?
Growing up, Malek never thought it was possible that he would one day act in Mr. robot and win an Emmy “because I’ve never seen anyone in the lead who looked like me.
he never thought he could play freddie mercury until he realized his name was farrokh bulsara, “and that was the most powerful message they sent me.”
as for mercury, she was inspired by the way the queen singer could move people and reach everyone, even those in the back of the room. malek said it was as if he was telling the audience “i will play for you and together we will transcend… it’s not about being from a place or looking like a thing or a race, we are all human beings, collectively we are all champions .” In a divided world, Malek had struck the right note.