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.