Heeeee is the champion, my friends: Rami Malek has won the Oscar for Best Actor at the 91st annual Academy Awards on Sunday for his performance as Freddie Mercury in the Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody.
“I think about what it would’ve been like to tell little bubba Rami that one day this might happen to him, and I think his curly haired little mind would be blown,” said Malek when he took the stage to accept the award. “That kid was struggling with his identity, trying to figure himself out. I think to anyone struggling with theirs and trying to find their voice, listen, we made a film about a gay man, an immigrant, who lived his life just unapologetically himself. The fact that I’m celebrating him and this story with you tonight is proof that we’re longing for stories like this.”
He continued: “I am the son of immigrants from Egypt. I’m a first generation American, and part of my story is being written right now, and I could not be more grateful to each and every one of you and everyone who believed in me for this moment. It is something I will treasure for the rest of my life.”
The Mr. Robot actor also thanked Queen “for allowing me to be the tiniest part of your phenomenal, extraordinary legacy. I am forever in your debt.”
The film, which tracks Mercury’s rise with the iconic band up through their show-stopping Live Aid performance, has enjoyed both box office success and a fruitful awards-season run, particularly for Malek. The actor picked up a Golden Globe, a SAG Award, and a BAFTA leading up to the Oscars, and though critics have dinged the film for its portrayal of Mercury’s sexuality and his AIDS diagnosis, Malek has stood by the story for honoring Mercury. “I think the movie celebrates Freddie Mercury’s life,” he previously told EW. “And that was the story that was on the page.”
Still, Bohemian Rhapsody has been mired in controversy behind the scenes for some time: Director Bryan Singer abandoned production just before filming completed — and was subsequently fired — leaving the uncredited Dexter Fletcher to wrap up. In January, Singer was hit with several new allegations of having sex with underage boys throughout his career in an exposé published in The Atlantic.
Malek has refrained from discussing Singer in his acceptance speeches during the awards season so far, but did comment on the allegations in a discussion with The Hollywood Reporter, saying, “I’ve sat here and talked about how everyone deserves a voice and anyone who wants to talk about what happened with Bryan deserves to have their voice heard. In my situation with Bryan, it was not pleasant, not at all.”
The actor beat out fellow nominees Christian Bale (Vice), Bradley Cooper (A Star Is Born), Willem Dafoe (At Eternity’s Gate), and Viggo Mortensen (Green Book) for the win.