Egyptian-American Rami Malek wins Oscar for Freddie Mercury portrayal

Egyptian-American Rami Malek wins Oscar for Freddie Mercury portrayal
Rami Malek won the Academy Award for best actor.
2 min read
25 February, 2019
Malek's win seemed unlikely at the outset (Getty)

Rami Malek transformed his look, gait and accent to portray iconic Queen frontman Freddie Mercury in "Bohemian Rhapsody" - an all-in performance that has catapulted him onto Hollywood's A-list and into Oscar history.

Malek, 37, on Sunday rode his Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild success to the pinnacle of Tinseltown's award season, snatching the Academy Award for best actor in a showdown with Christian Bale ("Vice").

"We made a film about a gay man, an immigrant, who lived his life just unapologetically himself," Malek said.

"The fact that I'm celebrating him and this story with you tonight is proof that we're longing for stories like this," he added, noting for the audience that he is "a first-generation American" of Egyptian descent.

Malek's win seemed unlikely at the outset, given that he was about the only constant in the film's troubled road to the big screen: stars dropping out, director Bryan Singer departing mid-production, lackluster reviews.

But he likely sealed the deal - even despite the much-maligned prosthetic teeth he wears in the film - with his preening, foot-stomping recreation of Mercury's electric performance at Live Aid in 1985, which audiences loved.

The film was also a commercial success, raking in more than $820 million worldwide. 

"Thank you to Freddie Mercury for giving me the joy of a lifetime. I love you, you beautiful man. This is for and because of you, gorgeous," Malek said at the Golden Globes in January.

Malek also bested Bradley Cooper ("A Star Is Born"), Viggo Mortensen ("Green Book") and Willem Dafoe ("At Eternity's Gate").

Before all the attention from "BoRhap" - as it's known in Tinseltown - Malek was turning heads on "Mr Robot," a psychological hacker drama on which he stars with Christian Slater.

It was Malek's breakout role, after humble beginnings growing up in suburban Los Angeles, in an Egyptian Coptic Orthodox family. He has an identical twin brother named Sami, and an older sister.