The immense popularity of Bohemian Rhapsody has begun to carry over to awards season glory. When the Golden Globe nominations were announced on Thursday, the Queen biopic was named as a contender for Best Picture – Drama and Best Actor in a Drama, with Rami Malek being recognized for his portrayal of the band’s iconic frontman Freddie Mercury.
Malek spoke to EW about earning recognition for his remarkable transformation, the strong bond he’s developed with the band’s members, and why he’s thrilled to be a part of telling the late Mercury’s story.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What does it mean to see all of the dedication you put into this role highlighted on such a grand scale?
RAMI MALEK: It’s great to be recognized in this way. It’s been so many years in the process and to have it culminate in not only myself but the film being recognized is such a tremendous honor and speaks to the level of work that everyone who was a part of this film brought to it. It was a troop of people who were dedicated and committed on such a high level. I’m so proud of all of them. It’s so special. I’m in London, so I may even be able to share this with the band tonight. We’re getting on the phone, me and Roger Taylor and Brian May and will try and figure something out because I’d like to take them out for a drink.
Both of them have repeatedly spoken about being in awe of your performance. Has it been gratifying to know the people closest to him, who actually lived the events of the film, are behind you?
That was the only thing I cared about in the beginning. I couldn’t let all the voices chime in. Queen means so much to so many people and there are legions of fans who adore them and have their own specific vision of who Freddie is and who the band is. I thought if I could get the approval Brian and Roger that would give me the lift I needed to do justice and honor Freddie Mercury’s story. It means everything to have their support. That in and of itself is the award. Once I had them cheering me on and supportive and appreciative of what I had done, that was the greatest accolade one could ask for.
Based on the fact that you’re celebrating your nomination with them, I imagine you’ve grown close.
I’ve developed a great relationship with Roger Taylor and I can’t believe I’m saying it but Brian May and I have become so very close. This is what life is about for me. Since I’m in London, I’ll get to take Freddie’s sister [Kashmira Cooke] out to dinner at one of his favorite restaurants. It’s these experiences that are most rewarding.
One of the reasons many have praised your performance is that you not only capture the way Freddie could command arenas full of thousands but his vulnerability behind closed doors as well. Looking back on production, how did you convey both those elements?
He had every one of those audience members in the palm of his hand and ultimately, he just wanted someone to hold him in the palm of their hand. I initially thought, ‘How am I ever going to fill the shoes of this rock god? This deity.” The thing that was so helpful was looking at his origin story. This young man from Zanzibar goes to school in Bombay. He was literally sent out on a ship, without his parents, goes to school and he’s alone. He discovers he has talent, he discovers that he has talent and can play the piano and had a great voice. But he’s so far away from his family that when he does return, his country is in the midst of a revolution and he takes refuge in London at 18. He’s called bucky because of the size of his teeth. He’s Farrokh Bulsara [the star’s birth name] and trying to discover his identity. His family, as with any immigrant family, doesn’t want their son to be a rock star but possibly go into law or be a doctor. He had to somehow fight against all of these things and go with his gut. He was also struggling with his sexuality at a time when being anything other than heterosexual was extremely stigmatized. I just looked at him as a fish out of water, who despite having insurmountable obstacles, had a burning desire to live his best life and be his truest self. When he got onstage, whatever was churning and burning inside of him erupted and exploded out to the audience. He allowed everyone to share this spirit of understanding and gave them the space to be exactly who they were.
What is it like to be part of something that celebrates Freddie’s life in a way that allows news legions of people to connect with him?
I’ve toured with this film all over the world. I think I’ve done the circumference of the earth and a half. My last stop was in Tokyo and we surprised the audience that was having a sing-along version to Live Aid [the band’s renowned 1985 set] and the audience knew all the words, they had glow sticks. It was a really emotional moment. I started taking a few questions from the audience, some of them spoke English very well and some needed a translator. The power that Queen has transcends any type of boundaries, not only through their music but in the way they communicate. There’s something about it that hits you so deeply. To back that up with storytelling and give the intimate perspective of getting to know the band, makes it all the more profound. It shows the reach of Queen, the music and those four beautiful men who made it happen.