Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? It’s hard to tell. For Rami Malek, reality must look a lot like fantasy. The talented actor plays rock icon Freddie Mercury, singer for the band Queen, in the biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, opening on November 2. The film will explore key events in Mercury’s life, from the inception of Queen to his global success with the group. It will also touch on the musician’s battle with AIDS in the 1980s.
Trailers for Bohemian Rhapsody show the incredible degree to which Malek has transformed himself into Mercury. It’s no small feat; the singer’s look at movements are unique, even iconic. Malek seems to have them all down. Here’s how he went from a regular working actor to one of the best performers in film and television.
Malek is on the verge of becoming a household name, but that’s a recent development. In 2004, he was another working actor. His first on-screen credit was in an episode of Gilmore Girls, playing a guy named Andy in Lane’s bible study group. That’s a far cry from the roles he’s celebrated for now, and he only had a few lines — but it was enough.
The actor’s TV roles slowly grew, from an episode of Medium to two episodes on Over There, which looked at the experience of US Army infantry soldiers on a tour of duty in Iraq, to a recurring role on the Fox comedy The War at Home.He went on to play a serial killer in the short-lived series Alcatraz, before receiving acclaim for his performances as Marcos Al-Zacar in 24 and Corporal Merriell Shelton in The Pacific.
Movie roles started to come in, too, beginning with Night at the Museum, in which he played Pharaoh Ahkmenrah. That wasn’t a big part, but it led to appearances in the film’s two sequels. Thanks to The Pacific, Tom Hanks liked Malek and recruited him for a part in Hanks’s film Larry Crowne. He turned up in the indie Short Term 12, and in Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master, as well.
‘Mr. Robot’ & Emmy Win
2015 changed everything for Malek, and put an end to his days playing small supporting roles. Producer Sam Esmail cast Malek as computer hacker Elliot Alderson in the USA Network series Mr. Robot. The complex, multi-layered character gave Malek the opportunity to demonstrate his skills and unique intensity. The character’s tendency to speak directly to the audience highlighted Malek’s charisma, and made us all feel like we were in on a secret.
Malek’s nuanced performance has been the object of praise since the show’s debut. In 2016, he won the Primetime Emmy Award For Outstanding Actor In a Drama Series. As of 2018, three seasons of Mr. Robot have aired, and a fourth and final one is planned for next year.
Malek has reaped the rewards of the success of Mr. Robot. In 2016, he had his first leading film role in Buster’s Mal Heart, playing a fractured and lost man who evades the cops as he breaks into a string of homes. And he was cast in a remake of the 1973 film Papillon, portraying Louis Dega opposite Charlie Hunnam as the title character, Henri Charrière.
And then there was Freddie. A film about Queen has been long in development, with a couple different actors attached to the project. Sacha Baron Cohen very nearly got to play the role a few years back, but he left the project due to creative differences. That left the stage open for Malek, who toldScreenCrush about the job:
“As daunting as it would be to try to think about ever filling his shoes — which is impossible, there’s only one Freddie Mercury — it was still something that I could not pass up. And I just hope people appreciate it and have a little bit of a window into his life.”
Malek clearly turned the responsibility of portraying Mercury properly into inspiration. His physical transformation is wildly impressive, we can’t wait to see his performance when Bohemian Rhapsody hits theaters in November.
Bohemian Rhapsody hits theaters November 2, 2018.