‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ star Rami Malek on becoming Freddie Mercury

And the winner is … Rami Malek.

He figures it comes out that way whether or not he goes home with Oscar gold on Sunday night.

Malek, 37, knows how far he has come. Not so many years ago, he was sleeping on a futon in his friend’s kitchen. Back in L.A. and living with his parents, he worked at a local fast food joint.

“If anyone looked like a producer or director in the drive-thru window, I’d slip my headshot into their to-go bag,” the actor recalls. “When I delivered pizza, I’d tape my resume and headshot to the pizza box.”

One day he got a call from the casting director for “The Gilmore Girls.” “She asked to speak to ‘Rami Malek’s agent,’” he said. “I said, ‘Speaking.’ She said, ‘We’d love to have Rami come in for a small, co-starring role. Is he a SAG actor?’ I said, ‘Currently, no.’ She said, ‘And you’ve been representing him for how long?’ I said, Quite a long time.’

“Finally, she said, ‘Is this Rami Malek?’ And we both started to laugh.”

From those tiny three lines on “Gilmore,” he went on to work with Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg and Paul Thomas Anderson. Malek also won an Emmy for playing a computer hacker on “Mr. Robot.”

Now, as Queen frontman Freddie Mercury in “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which is out on DVD, Malek might hear his name when the Oscar for best actor is announced.

Review-Journal: What is your idea of a great Sunday?

Rami Malek: When I’m not working, I’m home in New York. It’s great to just spend a Sunday walking around and having encounters with people. I like nothing better than hearing someone else’s story. That’s a good day.

What was your first reaction to being nominated for an Oscar?

Just total elation. Walking on cloud nine. It feels like being in a dream. I was in Paris when the nominations came out. It was snowing. It was such a beautiful place to hear such beautiful news. I shut my eyes and gave a thank you to Freddie Mercury.

How much did you know about Freddie Mercury going into “Bohemian Rhapsody”?

In the spring of 2016, I met with producer Graham King and hung out for six hours in his office. He called me in because he had watched “Mr. Robot,” a show about a profoundly alienated human being with social anxiety who has trouble stepping out from his monitor — the antithesis of Freddie Mercury. I said, “Listen, man. I don’t sing. I don’t play the piano. Honestly, I don’t know all that much about Freddie Mercury.” I was offered the role and I just said yes. Someone offers you something this big and you have to do it. I thought it’s a big risk, but what’s life all about? What was Freddie all about? He loved a big risk.

How did you tap into the inner side of Freddie Mercury?

I scoured every performance he had ever done. If there was a guy recording it in Japan in 1980 for his own home video usage, I saw it. But what helped me to identify with who he was privately was the lyrics. He wrote straight from his heart and soul. His themes were loneliness and the search for love.

How did you learn to move like him?

I had a movement coach named Polly Bennett. We would sit in a dance studio in London. She got me to a point where I had to buy a pair of tights and walk around with a mic for six months. We’d work on the smallest of hand gestures. Sometimes, we’d watch Liza Minnelli. Freddie was such a fan of hers. I’d even do “Killer Queen” as a soliloquy in the style of Marie Antoinette with a British accent.

The film shows where Freddie got his drive. Where do you get your drive?

I grew up in Sherman Oaks, California. My parents were from Egypt. We came to California and my dad worked door to door to sell insurance and my mom took three buses to get to work. All they wanted was to give their children an opportunity to be special. My sister became an ER doctor and my brother is a teacher. Here I am today. I just wanted an opportunity. Now, I just want everyone — no matter how you grew up — to have an opportunity and not be stifled. I want them to be given a chance like I was given a chance.

What do you remember about winning the Emmy for “Mr. Robot”?

I remember I was hugging Jimmy Kimmel and crying at the same time. I was just trying not to get anything on his suit. I do remember I was sitting there and the category came up. I was incredibly nervous. I was truly waiting to hear someone else’s name. There are so many fantastic actors. Then when I heard my name, I said, “Do not move because it wasn’t you.” Then all of these faces started to turn toward me. I must have looked like I was in shock.

What drew you to acting?

So many parents want their kids to be doctors and lawyers. Acting was not an option or a thought in my family. It seemed radical and not the reason my parents would say they came to America. My dad would have me watching old movies and CNN. Dad would say, “You have this opportunity to do something special.” I think he meant in politics. He was thrilled when I took this debate class in high school. At one point, my teacher said, “You’re not very good at debate. But you can do humorous or dramatic interpretations.” He handed me this play to read at home. I read it and I could feel myself becoming this other human being.

You moved to New York City to get your BFA in acting, but it was a struggle.

At one point, I was sleeping with two other actors in a one-bedroom apartment. I had the futon in the kitchen. Finally, I said, “I’m from Los Angeles. I should go back there and see if breaking into acting is a bit easier there.” Eventually, I got that call from the casting director of “The Gilmore Girls.” She finally said, “Call me when you get an agent.” I said, “Why? We can cut out the middleman. It’s three lines.” When she wasn’t convinced, I said, “I’m in Sherman Oaks right now. Warner Brothers is so close. I’ll be there in 10 minutes.” She finally said yes and I got the job. The same day an agent called and wanted to represent me.

So, you can never give up.

Never give up. You don’t know what tomorrow will bring.

Entertainment Videos
Brownie sundae at VegeNation in Las Vegas is completely vegan
Donald Lemperle, chef/owner of VegeNation in Las Vegas and nearby Henderson, NV, makes his sundae with ice cream made with coconut and almond milks, a brownie made with coconut flour and oil and organic sugar and cacao, and fresh fruit. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Taste of the Town: Henderson Booze District
Those who like to support local businesses and sample local products will find the best concentration in an unlikely spot: a Henderson industrial park.
Founder of theatre talks about a favorite play
Ann Marie Pereth, founder of A Public Fit Theatre Company, speaks to the Review-Journal about which play she would see every day if only given one option. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
New Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N interactive exhibit
The new exhibit features original and recreated props and plenty of interactive features. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Writer's Block and Lucy are open in Las Vegas
The Writer's Block and Lucy are open in Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas ice cream shop offers everything in the kitchen sink
Have you ever wanted to eat an ice cream sundae out of a kitchen sink? Who hasn't, right? At Sloan's, located inside the Venetian, you can do just that. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Maxie’s in Las Vegas puts eggs Benedict in a box
Chef David Mangual at Maxie’s in The Linq Promenade in Las Vegas makes his eggs Benedict in a brioche “box” layered with spinach, bacon and tomatoes and topped with poached eggs and hollandaise sauce. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Caviar Twinkie Served at Stripsteak in Las Vegas
Stripsteak Executive Pastry Chef Vivian Chang and Chef Gerald Chin create a novel savory food item that looks like a familiar sweet treat at the restaurant in Las Vegas. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal)
NAB attendees battle to qualify for Fortnite event
NAB is sponsoring an online video game event with Epic Games’ Fortnite allowing attendees to qualify to go head to head with top players. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Arctic Shrimp Sandwich at Saga near Las Vegas
Chef Gert Kvalsund, a native of Norway, founded Saga Pastry + Sandwich in Henderson to give Scandinavians a taste of home. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Guy Fieri and Sammy Hagar talk UNLVino
Guy Fieri and Sammy Hagar talk about the upcoming UNLVino vent. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Christie Brinkley at Smith & Wollensky
Christie Brinkley, in town for her run in “Chicago” at the Venetian Theatre, paid a visit to the Grand Canal Shoppes’ still-under-construction Smith Wollensky on Monday for a ceremonial first toast at the bar. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Two artists create a mural for peace in Las Vegas
2 artists create a mural for peace in Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Inside Kaos nightclub and dayclub
A look at new club at Palms.
CinemaCon Brings Theater Professionals To Caesars
CinemaCon is not just celebs, it's also a place where theater owners can browse the latest in seats, projectors and concessions. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas restaurants provide a taste of ballpark food
The Las Vegas Ballpark, home to the Las Vegas Aviators, will serve food from Giada De Laurentiis and a team of favorite local restaurants. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Taste of the Town: Bobby Flay Opens Shark at the Palms - VIDEO
Bobby Flay opens Shark at the Palms; his first high-end restaurant in 15 years.
Chef Marc Marrone at T-Mobile Arena
Chef Marc Marrone has opened a bao cart at T-Mobile Arena. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bellagio fountains celebrate 'Game of Thrones'
A medley of the theme for HBO’s “Game of Thrones” and the song “Winter Is Here” from the show premiered at the Bellagio Fountains water show on the Las Vegas Strip on Sunday, March 31, 2019. The new number will run in rotation through April 13. The series premieres its eighth and final series on April 14. (Mick Akers/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegan Aunt Chippy talks about being on Jimmy Kimmel's show
Concetta Potenza, Aunt “Chippy” to Jimmy Kimmel, talks about her first time being featured on her nephew’s show. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The "Flight Unknown" At Bar Centro at Bazaar Meats Las Vegas Features 5 Innovative Cocktails
The "Flight Unknown" At Bar Centro At Bazaar Meats Las Vegas Features 5 Innovative Cocktails (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Cotton candy crowns pancakes in Las Vegas
At Maxie’s at The Linq Promenade in Las Vegas, executive chef David Mangual fills pancakes with fruit and cream cheese and piles on pastel cotton candy, which is melted in a stream of chocolate syrup. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Bananas Foster Pancakes go up in flames at The Stove near Las Vegas
Chef Antonio Nunez at The Stove in Henderson, near Las Vegas, flames the pancakes tableside for a fiery presentation. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
El Loco Rollercoaster at Circus Circus' Adventuredome
The El Loco rollercoaster opened at the Circus Circus' Adventuredome in February 2014. It features a 90-foot ascent, followed by a drop that produces a negative 1.5 "verticle G," a 180-degree turn, and reverse 240-degree roll that turns into an inverted drop. The coaster reaches a maximum speed of 45 mph and is the only indoor coaster of it's kind in the U.S., and is the second indoor El Loco coaster in the world, according to MGM Resorts.
Bartending flair competition at the Nightclub & Bar Show
Highlights from the ten contestants who competed for the Shake It Up Flair and Classic Competition at the Nightclub & Bar Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @rookie__rae
Justin Kingsley Hall shares details on his next gig
Chef Justin Kinglsey hall shares some details about the newArts District restaurant he's developing with Kim Owens. (Al Mancini/Las Vegs Review-Journal)
Film prompted Carrie Hogan to found 2 farmers markets in Las Vegas
Carrie Hogan founded Fresh 52 Farmers and Artisan Market in Las Vegas after realizing she had to do something about the influence of factory farms on the food supply. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Seafood dishes being made at Pasta Shop near Las Vegas
Executive chef Edwin Martinez incorporates fresh pasta into Lobster Salmon and Saffron Shrimp Sauté at Pasta Shop Ristorante & Art Gallery in Henderson, near Las Vegas. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Andrew Carmean will be the only local participant in upcoming demolition derby
Andrew Carmean, a demolition driver, will be the only local participant in upcoming derby at the Plaza Hotel. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Masso Osteria first anniversary in Las Vegas
Scott Conant was in town Tuesday to host a one-year anniversary party for his Red Rock Resort restaurant Masso Osteria.
Home Front Page Footer Listing