Rami Malek opened up to Jimmy Kimmel on Jimmy Kimmel Live! on Tuesday night (Sept. 4) about the task of taking on the role of Freddie Mercury for the upcoming Queen biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody. Malek tried to tamp down Kimmel’s suggestion that the immersive dive into the rock icon’s life could potentially add an Oscar to his Emmy for Mr. Robot, while reminiscing about the joy of filming the band’s most legendary moments, interacting with two of the living members and meeting Mercury’s family.
“The greatest honor I think from playing someone like Freddie Mercury is getting the acceptance of the legendary bandmates, Brian May and Roger Taylor,” Malek told Kimmel of his biggest take-away from the mind-blowing experience. “I’m not gonna lie and say I wouldn’t consider [an Oscar] a massive accomplishment.”
After getting the sign-off from May to play the title role, Malek said the film’s producers saw his work on Mr. Robot and while his acting impressed them, having that signature “austere” Mercury jawline didn’t hurt either. As for Mercury’s other notable physical trait — the prominent teeth that earned him the nickname “Bucky” as a child — Malek said he tried to keep his fake teeth in for most of the shoot, save for lunchtime, when his make-up artist insisted he pop them out. “I have the teeth now,” he said. “I will always keep them.”
Malek also confessed to appreciating May and Taylor’s constant presence on set, using it to his advantage play a prank on his fellow cast mate Ben Hardy, who plays Taylor in the film. “We had to do a scene where we played ‘Keep Yourself Alive,’ and halfway through ‘Keep Yourself Alive’ is one of the most incredible, hard to replicate solos that Roger Taylor does,” he explained. “I thought I’d work this in with the AD’s and convince the young man playing Roger Taylor [Ben Hardy] that he’s gonna have to do this crazy difficult drum solo…. Finally, after being called out on the walkie talkie so often, he came on the set and looked so pale he was like a ghost.”
As for the hardest part of the shoot, Malek described the insane first day of shooting. “We shot the most iconic performance in rock history — Queen playing at Live Aid — on day one,” he said. “Our first shot was the four of us coming out onto Wembley Stadium stage as the members of Queen.” Kimmel later on asked the actor if he had the chance to meet Mercury’s family during filming. Malek admitted to meeting Mercury’s sister, Kashmira Cooke, who initially laughed at him when she saw him in Mercury’s ’70s glam rock look.
“It was an incredibly bizarre, alien moment for her,” said Malek. “Later on, she said it was a very emotional moment. To get that vote of appreciation from the people who were closest to him meant everything for me.”
Watch Malek discuss other funny and notable moments from the filming with Kimmel below.