Not everyone wanted Rami Malek or his film Bohemian Rhapsody to win an Oscar, but after picking up the award for Best Actor on Sunday, Malek was the first to point out all the criticism of the film.
“I don’t think critically the decision on this film was unanimous,” he told press backstage with a sincere smile, “but no matter what, I still do very much appreciate you, thank you.”
For Malek personally, this has been a road from alienation and social anxiety to major success. Growing up in an Egyptian family as a first-generation American immigrant, he never thought he’d be able to do something like this.
“I never saw anyone in a lead role that looked like me,” he said. “I never thought I could possibly play Freddie Mercury, until I realized his name was Farrokh Bulsara, and that was the most powerful message that was sent to me from the beginning.”
As a younger man, he had not been proud of his heritage at times, he admitted. “As a kid, part of me felt like I needed to shed some of that. I didn’t feel like I fit in and I definitely felt like the outsider. As I got older, I realized just how beautiful my heritage and my tradition is, and the wealth of culture and magic and music and film and just pure art that comes out of the Middle East, and now I’m just so proud to represent it.”
Freddie Mercury’s legacy has not only been transformative for Malek—the actor says Mercury is an inspiration for all of us.
“That man steps on stage and he moves people in a way that no one else does,” he said. “And that’s because he was struggling to identify himself. And all that passion burning inside of him allowed him to look at everyone else and say, ‘Hey, I see you.’ It’s not about being from one place or looking like one thing, one race, any of that.”
Unable to resist quoting one of Mercury’s biggest Queen hits, Malek added, “We are all human beings, and forgive me for this, but collectively we are the champions.”