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ntense. Ev­ery time a writer spills ink on Rami Malek, it’s the one word that comes up. And his phys­i­cal fea­tures – which bear a strik­ing re­sem­blance to a cer­tain mu­sic le­gend (but more on that later) – only add to the “in­tense” rep­u­ta­tion.

But there are more ad­jec­tives where that came from, and when Stel­lar sug­gests three al­ter­na­tives,he’s agree­able. “Mag­netic, enig­matic and un­nerv­ing? Oh, I’ll take those. If that’s how some­one de­scribed me at the very end, I’d be quite happy with that. Job well done.”

Which, in turn, might just be the mantra that Malek, 37, has cho­sen to live by – and has helped him break free of the typecast­ing that first marked his ca­reer. The La-born son of Egyp­tian im­mi­grants and an iden­ti­cal twin to brother Sami (who is younger by four min­utes), Malek was ini­tially cast in roles like Pharaoh Ahk­men­rah in the Night At The Mu­seum films, Kenny Al-bahir on sit­com The War At Home and Mar­cos Al-zacar on 24.

Turns in movies like the 2013 indie Short Term 12, in which he starred op­po­site 2016 Academy Award Best Ac­tress win­ner Brie Lar­son (“en­light­en­ing and in­spir­ing… she’s such a nat­u­ral”), and a lead role on the TV series Mr. Ro­bot, for which he won an Emmy, helped ce­ment Malek as one of Hol­ly­wood’s most idio­syn­cratic and in-de­mand ac­tors.

Now he is set to play the big­gest and per­haps most try­ing role of his ca­reer, adopt­ing the sin­glets, buck teeth and inim­itable swag­ger of Fred­die Mer­cury in the Queen biopic Bo­hemian Rhap­sody. True to form, Malek all but buried him­self in Mer­cury ephemera to pre­pare.

“I quickly be­came a fa­natic,” he says. “It’s safe to say I’m be­yond en­chanted by the man – as a cre­ative and in terms of his per­sonal strug­gle.” Like mil­lions, Malek long ago took to Queen’s beloved back cat­a­logue; asked to name his ear­li­est me­mory of their mu­sic, he ad­mits it’s hard to go past the very song from which the film takes its name. “The first time I heard ‘Bo­hemian Rhap­sody’ it made me ques­tion what it meant to make mu­sic, to lis­ten to mu­sic and to ap­pre­ci­ate mu­sic. It did those three things to me im­me­di­ately, and I imag­ine it did three uni­ver­sally unique things to ev­ery­one else who’s ever heard it, too.”

Malek also hopes to stay some­what un­know­able. He is hard to pin down once ques­tions veer away from work. But that’s not ob­fus­ca­tion, he in­sists; it’s just who he is. “I’m not say­ing this to try and be too cool for school, but I can be un­pre­dictable in a way that some­times even I don’t know what I’m go­ing to do. I catch peo­ple off guard, hope­fully in a pos­i­tive way.”

One tool that helps him get there, as with Mer­cury, is his cloth­ing. Style spot­ters reg­u­larly tap him as the best­dressed man wher­ever he steps out – the Met Gala, Wim­ble­don, the Em­mys or the Golden Globes. “As a kid, I jumped into [my par­ents’] closet as of­ten as pos­si­ble,” says Malek. “We didn’t grow up with all the re­sources to dress well, but it was im­por­tant to them to put your best foot for­ward. So I don’t know if that closet was a place of refuge… but it was like en­ter­ing an artis­tic space, where I could try things on and get some cre­ative free­dom.

“I don’t know if that’s silly,” he con­tin­ues. “But I re­ally en­joy step­ping out in some­thing that ar­tic­u­lates who I am, or an as­pect of my per­son­al­ity… so that I don’t nec­es­sar­ily have to di­vulge too much about my­self oth­er­wise.” Bo­hemian Rhap­sody is in cinemas from Thurs­day, Novem­ber 1.

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