From Mr Robot to Bohemian Rhapsody: How Rami Malek became Hollywood's go-to guy
After over a decade of slogging away in supporting roles, Rami Malek's two upcoming features will confirm his status as one of the rising stars of the industry.
Few movies can lay claim to being as highly awaited as 'Bohemian Rhapsody,' the upcoming biographical drama on British rock band Queen. An indication of the hype can be gleaned from the first trailer for the biopic which went live just two days ago and has already garnered over 5 million views. Stitched together with some of the band's most iconic songs — 'Bohemian Rhapsody', 'We Will Rock You' and 'We Are the Champions' feature prominently — the 2.5-minute look into the life and times of the enigma that was Freddie Mercury leaves a lasting feeling that the movie is the next-best-thing to seeing Freddie live.
With his characteristic flamboyant onstage persona and remarkable inimitable four-octave vocal range, Freedie's passing from AIDS in 1991 at the age of 45 left a void in the music world that remains to this day. Rami Malek's portrayal of the legendary frontman commands a kind of gravitas that would undoubtedly have filled the vocalist with pride were he alive. However brief the glimpse may have been, Malek seems to have encapsulated Freddie's unapologetic swagger, panache, sass, and charisma down to the T.
That Malek feels like such a perfect and natural fit is remarkable given the fact that he was not the first-choice casting option for the role, not even the second. Sacha Baron Cohen was the band's pick to portray Freddie, with lead guitarist Brian May strongly approving Cohen's casting. However, the 'Borat' and 'The Dictator' actor left the project over creative differences, allegedly disillusioned by how it would be produced as a family-friendly film. Ben Winshaw was then reportedly sounded out for the role before Malek was finally cast in 2016.
It was probably then that everything fell into place for the ambitious project. Production saw no further issues and now the movie is a little over three months away. Malek will rightly draw the plaudits for what many are tipping an Oscar-worthy performance, with 'Bohemian Rhapsody' quietly and deservedly confirming his rise to the upper echelons of Hollywood.
Born in Los Angeles to a family of Egyptian immigrants of Coptic and Greek descent, it has been an arduous journey to the top for Malek, who kickstarted his fledgling career with a guest-starring role on the WB's 'Gilmore Girls' and voicing 'additional characters' on Halo 2.
While a cursory glance at Malek's filmography makes for an impressive reading — the actor can lay claim to roles in Paul Thomas Anderson's 2012 drama 'The Master,' 'The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2,' drama film 'Short Term 2,' as well as numerous television series — first impressions can often be deceiving. In fact, a large majority of these castings coming in minor and supporting roles.
Supporting roles in numerous TV shows and movies would follow, with his recurring character of Kenny on Fox's 'The War of Home' and Pharaoh Akmenrah in the 'Night at the Museum' movies proving to be his most prominent appearances. The rest of the 2000s would be spent in relative obscurity, with Malek having to make do with bit-part roles, but the turn of the decade seeing him garner the recognition that warranted his raw talent.
Malek's portrayal of Corporal Merriell 'Snafu' Shelton in Emmy Award-winning HBO drama 'The Pacific' was critically acclaimed and praised, and a twist of fate saw him acquainted to Tom Hanks during its production. Impressed, Hanks would cast Malek as college student Steve Dibiasi in 2011's 'Larry Crowne,' and soon enough, the actor would see himself in increasingly eminent supporting roles. In 2015, 'Mr. Robot' would come along and assert his claim as one of the rising stars of the industry.
The USA Network psychological thriller saw Malek in the titular role of Elliot Alderson, a cybersecurity engineer and hacker who suffers from a crippling social anxiety disorder and clinical depression. He was praised for his depiction of the alienated, quirky anti-hero, but this time around, the acclaim was not purely in the form of empty words and well-meaning pats-on-the-back.
His standout performances earned him nominations for the Dorian Award, Satellite Award, Golden Globe Award, and Screen Actors Guild Award; noteworthy, but still lacking. However, those nominations would be quickly followed with wins at the prestigious Critics' Choice Television Awards for Best Actor in a Drama Series, as well as a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series.
Aided by a talented cast and crew led by Malek from the front, 'Mr. Robot' cemented the USA Network as a legitimate competitor for the likes of bigger fish such as HBO, AMC, and FX. But the drama played its part in putting Malek on the map as well, a fact that cannot be understated especially since it would result in the actor's first-ever major starring role in a movie.
2017's 'Buster's Mal Heart' boasted of quite a non-traditional script, with the surreal mystery film chronicling the life of a man with a split personality disorder who ghosts his wife after his job as a night-shift concierge takes a toll on his psyche and marriage. While director Sarah Adina Smith surprisingly had little trouble financing the venture, casting for the leading role would prove problematic.
Because the character was bilingual, Smith reportedly wanted to cast a Latino actor in the role. But when doing so proved difficult, she expedited the casting process and zeroed in on Malek, who she had been impressed with from his work in 'The Pacific' and 'Mr. Robot.' Despite a glittering C.V, the actor would not be confirmed for the movie until Smith supposedly received the go-ahead from a tarot card reader! The movie would perform decently enough, but more importantly, it would recognize Malek as a star capable of carrying his own film.
While the high budget, high production value 'Bohemian Rhapsody' is unsurprisingly drawing all the attention, another one of Malek's upcoming features has flown completely under the radar. Set to premiere this coming August 24, the contemporary remake of 1973 biographical drama 'Papillon' will see the actor star alongside Charlie Hunnam in yet another leading role.
Based on the autobiography penned by infamous French convict Henri Charrière (Hunnam), the biopic will feature Malek as Louis Dega, the quirky banker convicted of counterfeiting who goes on to form an unlikely life-long friendship with Charrière during their quest for escape from the notorious penal colony on Devil's Island in French Guiana.
If there ever was a necessity for a reminder that Malek has made it in the big leagues, look no farther than either of 'Papillon' or 'Bohemian Rhapsody.' A decade of slogging in minor and supporting roles gave Malek a first leading role in 'Buster's Mal Heart.' A little over a year later, he already has two more starring roles in major feature films, one of which, if the fanfare and razzmatazz are to be believed, can ostensibly cross the $1 billion mark on release.
The 37-year-old's impeccable performances are forcing high-level executives and producers to stand and take notice, and the hope will be that soon enough, so do the audiences.
Watch the trailer for 'Bohemian Rhapsody' below.