UPDATED with speech video: When it comes to two of the industry’s biggest awards, first time is a charm for Rami Malek.
Just like the Emmys two years ago when he won Best Actor Drama for Mr. Robot off his first nomination, Malek won Best Actor tonight off his first Oscar nomination for Fox/New Regency’s Bohemian Rhapsody.
Bohemian Rhapsody‘s underdog success this awards season is one for the history books: A film eight years in development that ultimately soared to $860M-plus at the worldwide box office and bucked the sour headlines of its alleged behind-the-scenes drama with director Bryan Singer; the type of buzz that typically sinks a film’s commercial and awards season. Not here with Bohemian Rhapsody.
“I may not have been the obvious choice, but I guess it worked out,” said Malek thanking Fox and “everyone who believed in me. It’s something I will treasure for the rest of my life.”
“We made a film about a gay man who was an immigrant, who lived his life unapologetically,” said Malek onstage.
“It’s proof we’re looking for a story like this” added the actor in regards to the movies that we should see more of on screen.
For years, it appeared that Sacha Baron Cohen had called dibs on the role of Mercury but then dismissed the project public-ally when Bohemian Rhapsody producer Graham King opted against a warts-all rock biopic. For King, he wanted to deliver a fun film that generations of Queen fans would cherish.
Who then to play Mercury? King’s producing partner Denis O’Sullivan had a sense that Emmy-winning Mr. Robot star Rami Malek could do the trick, and indeed he did, prepping for the role of Mercury, from choreography, to song lyrics research, and vocal cadence with the gusto of Robert De Niro’s legendary prep for the role of Jake La Motta in Raging Bull. Every single note that Malek sang as Mercury may not have made it into the final sound mix, but he nailed the Queen frontman’s infectious spirit; his dedication to the part going to masochistic measures.
“I told Graham King if he gave me this role, I’d bleed for it, and he showed me a picture of blood on the piano keys after the final day of our Live Aid shoot,” says the actor who pushed the producer to add a day of filming to the shooting schedule so they could capture the entire concert climax from start to finish in 22 minutes.
“You realize how much adrenaline was coursing through his veins before 75,000 people,” said Malek at Deadline’s New York Contenders.
Malek will be back in the final season of USA’s Mr. Robot later this year.
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