By Alex Suskind
January 22, 2019 at 02:30 PM EST

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018 movie)

On Feb. 24, winners will be crowned at the 91st Academy Awards. But before the red carpet is rolled out and envelopes are opened, Entertainment Weekly has inside intel on the 2019 nominees. Keep checking back at this week for spotlights on contenders in all the major categories.

Rami Malek
Starring in: Bohemian Rhapsody
Age: 37
Oscar past: o noms, 0 wins
Role call: An aspiring young singer named Freddie Mercury joins a band

False starts, stars dropping out, a director’s rumored firing more than halfway into production. It was a long, arduous process to get Bohemian Rhapsody made. Luckily, the film ultimately had an anchor in Rami Malek, who portrays Queen frontman Freddie Mercury. It was a daunting task, playing a larger-than-life, global rock icon whose voice and image are permanently embedded in the minds of millions of Queen fans. To prepare, the 37-year-old actor went on an archaeological dig of Mercury’s life: screening performances, reading biographies, tearing through old photos and notes, and interrogating Queen cofounders Brian May and Roger Taylor, who also served as producers on the film The research paid off: Malek has been nominated in this year’s Best Actor category at the Oscars. “It’s just something you never expect to happen,” he says.

The key to his performance, adds the Mr. Robot star, was first looking to Mercury’s youth. “I thought about his upheaval of an upbringing — this conflicted man getting to London as a young adult,” he says. “What a brand-new world to be thrust into — not knowing exactly how you fit in or how to identify yourself. All that conflict inside was just brewing into a powder keg that was ready to explode.”

The deeper Malek swam in research, the more enamored he became of the star’s life and legacy, so much so that he continued to dive into the singer’s history long after the film had wrapped. “I don’t stop,” he says. “I reread one of the biographies the other day just to see, Did I miss anything?”

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Bohemian Rhapsody (2018 movie)

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