Beginning with his role as hacker Elliot Alderson on Mr. Robot (2015-2019), Rami Malek has experienced a considerable career trajectory that has defied the term “overnight success.” (He had been acting for well over a decade before the series took off.) His channeling of rock icon Freddie Mercury in 2018’s Bohemian Rhapsody won him an Academy Award as well as other nods from an alphabet soup of prize panels; and he’s set to terrorize Daniel Craig’s James Bond in No Time to Die, due out later this year. For more on Malek, keep reading.
1. Rami Malek stuffed envelopes with his own headshot.
Malek’s family emigrated from their home in Cairo, Egypt, to Los Angeles in 1978, shortly before Malek was born, to try and seize new opportunities in America. When Malek discovered drama in high school and began pursuing a career in entertainment, he recalled that his family was averse to the risk involved until his father walked in and saw him stuffing envelopes with his headshot to send to prospective agents and casting directors, and they realized Malek was serious about his goals.
Malek was very determined to be seen by power brokers in the industry. Working at a Hollywood restaurant, he stuffed the headshot into anyone’s to-go bag whom he suspected of being a producer. It eventually got him an audition for an M&M's commercial. (He didn't get the part.)
2. Rami Malek has a twin brother named Sami Malek.
Malek’s twin brother, Sami, attended a California university while Rami opted to attend the University of Evansville in Indiana. According to Malek, the two once pulled a fast one on Sami’s school. When Sami realized he needed to perform a monologue from a Greek tragedy and didn’t have time to learn it, he called Rami, who had studied it for his drama curriculum. Rami appeared as Sami to recite the lines.
3. Rami Malek paid to get his first onscreen acting credit.
In 2004, Malek made an appearance as a character who was part of a Seventh-day Adventist college on Gilmore Girls. The break was unusual, since Malek was not yet a member of the Screen Actors Guild and most film and television productions are unionized. To get around it, Warner Bros., which produced Gilmore Girls, paid Malek’s $2000 entry fee to the union, which Malek then had to pay back. Malek later said that his first onscreen acting credit showed him that breaking into the business was feasible. Roles in three Night at the Museum movies, 2012’s The Master, and 2013’s Short Term 12 followed before Malek was cast in Mr. Robot.
4. Rami Malek had a typing coach for Mr. Robot.
As a hacker on Mr. Robot, Malek wanted to avoid the disingenuous coding sequences common in movies and shows depicting computer use. To have his “hacking” look legitimate, Malek had technical advisers whispering instructions to him (“typing, typing, mousepad, click, click, click, return”) as he typed on camera. The typing was convincing enough for Malek to win an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for the role in 2016.
5. Rami Malek dove into the role of Freddie Mercury before Bohemian Rhapsody was even funded.
Malek was cast as Queen frontman Freddie Mercury at a time when the biopic was experiencing fits and starts, with everyone from Sacha Baron Cohen to Ben Whishaw considered for the role. While shooting Mr. Robot, the film’s producers, Denis O’Sullivan and Graham King, asked Malek to put himself on tape so other people behind the film could see him as Mercury. Despite the fact the film had yet to be funded, Malek also committed to watching footage of Mercury and working with a movement coach four hours a day to be prepared in case the film went into production. It did, and Malek ended up winning an Oscar for the performance.
6. Rami Malek almost made a cameo as Freddie Mercury in Rocketman.
Director Dexter Fletcher helmed part of Bohemian Rhapsody after original director Bryan Singer exited the film citing a family illness. Fletcher then turned around and directed Rocketman, the 2019 Elton John biopic starring Taron Egerton. Because the two musicians shared the same manager, John Reid, Fletcher considered having Malek appear as Mercury but later dismissed the idea as “a little too knowing.”