Movies

Rami Malek channels Queen frontman Freddie Mercury in a new Biopic

'Quite honestly, I still don’t know if I’ll ever have a handle on him.'

Twenty-seven years have passed since Queen's lead singer, Freddie Mercury, tragically died at age 45 due to AIDS complications.

By then, the English band had become a global phenomenon, thanks to the powerhouse hit "We Will Rock You", the soaring chorus of "We Are The Champions", and the mesmerising operatics of "Bohemian Rhapsody".

Here, Emmy-winner Rami Malek, 37, tells TV WEEK how he prepared to don Freddie's iconic catsuit for Bohemian Rhapsody, the new biopic that celebrates the singer's extraordinary life and music.

TV WEEK: How soon did you start preparing to play Freddie?

Rami: At one point during filming of [TV series] Mr Robot, I flew to London and immersed myself in the music, still unaware if the project was green-lit or if I even had the job. I went to the Abbey Road recording studio and began just paying my way, hoping that eventually someone would reimburse me! I knew the day could come where I'd need to be as prepared as possible, so I hired a movement coach and really went deep.

Rami is electric as the enigmatic performer.
Rami is electric as the enigmatic performer.

How did you handle Freddie's sexuality, which he'd kept hidden most of his life?

He was coming into his own sexually at a time when there was a massive stigma about it. A large part of that story is he had a great relationship with this woman named Mary Austin, who he proposed to. But he also had a beautiful life as a gay man, as a bisexual man, and there are moments where you get to see that. I wish we could have spent more time in that aspect of his life too, because he did get to celebrate that part.

Could you relate to Freddie?

Freddie saw the band as four misfits singing to other misfits in the back of the room. Coming from Zanzibar [islands off the coast of Tanzania] and having to flee the revolution to live in London, he knew that, with a name like Farrokh Bulsara, he was different. I can identify with that outsider feeling as Elliot, my character in Mr Robot, and also in my own upbringing. My parents were from Egypt, so I grew up in a household where you spoke a different language and ate different foods too. So it wasn't hard to imagine how Freddie felt about that.

Rami (front) with his co-stars (from left) Joseph Mazzello, Ben Hardy and Gwilym Lee).
Rami (front) with his co-stars (from left) Joseph Mazzello, Ben Hardy and Gwilym Lee).

Were you comfortable wearing Freddie's outrageous stage costumes?

It's probably the most hours I've ever spent in costume fittings, but well worth it! I think I did around 50 hours of costume fittings, but it was so useful for me, because I could put everything on, make-up and all, and use it as rehearsal time. There are some really outlandish things you'll see me wear in this film, but I have a feeling I wore them quite well!

Do you feel differently about Freddie after playing him?

I loved growing with him and just getting to know him, day in and day out, with all his idiosyncrasies. Things you see in the movie were things I came to find out, like how kind and gracious he was, and how diplomatic he could be with the band, but also how much of a perfectionist he was in the room while they were recording. No matter what the scene was, there was always something new to discover about this man. Quite honestly, I still don't know if I'll ever have a handle on him. Perhaps that's why I keep searching for him in his music too.

Bohemian Rhapsody is in cinemas November 1, 2018.

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