James Bond villain Rami Malek admits he had to think twice about accepting role

When Rami Malek was asked to play the villain in the ­latest 007 movie he had to think twice before ­accepting the role.

Most actors would have jumped at the chance to play a Bond baddie and instantly signed on the dotted line.

But, fresh from his Oscar-winning performance as Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody, in-demand Rami wanted a cast-iron guarantee from the film-makers first.

Joint billing with Daniel Craig? A two-movie deal? A heftier fee and lucrative product endorsements?

No, he simply wanted an assurance from director Cary Fukunaga that the villain he would play would NOT be a religious fundamentalist or an Arabic-speaking terrorist.

Because Rami’s pride in his Egyptian heritage and culture is, he says “the fabric of who I am”.

“It’s a great character and I’m very excited,” explains Rami. “But that was one thing that I discussed with Cary.

“I said, ‘We cannot identify him with any act of terrorism reflecting an ideology or a religion. That’s not ­something I would entertain, so if that is why I am your choice then you can count me out’.

“But that was clearly not his vision. So he’s a very different kind of terrorist.

“It’s another extremely clever script from the people who have figured out exactly what people want in those movies.

But I feel a substantial weight on my shoulders. I mean, Bond is ­something that we all grow up with.”

The 38-year-old also grew up with a deep sense of his own Egyptian roots.

Born in Los Angeles in 1981, he is son to Said and Nelly Abdel-Malek, who were immigrants who had left Cairo three years earlier after his father, a tour guide, became intrigued with Western visitors.

His father sold insurance and his mother was an accountant and they raised Rami in the Coptic Orthodox Christian faith.

He and his identical twin brother Sami and older sister Yasmine spoke ­Egyptian Arabic at home and their parents would wake them in the middle of the night to talk to his family in Egypt.

Speaking last
year he said: “There’s no ­first-generation, or second-
generation removed. I am Egyptian. I grew up listening to Egyptian music. I loved Omar Sharif.

“These are my people. I feel so gorgeously tied to the culture and the human beings that exist there.”

And he has said: “I am very proud of where my family and I come from. It’s a unique vantage point – having parents who, at a massive risk, left their lives at home and came all the way to the foreign country so that their kids could have a life that perhaps gave them more opportunity.

“I get to reap the benefits of the hardships of my parents and that gives me a strong appreciation for the life I lead today. Obviously I saw my family struggling, yes. There is a struggle that any immigrant family takes on. I hope in many cases it is worth taking.”

Rami admits he found it ­difficult to assimilate at school and spent most of his ­childhood having his name mispronounced.

“It took me until high school to tell everybody, ‘No, my name is Rami’,” he once said. “It’s a very upsetting thing to think about – that I didn’t have the confidence to correct anyone at that point.”

But that lack of self-identity meant he began “creating characters and doing voices” – honing the acting skills that have now made him one of the biggest names in Hollywood.

His portrayal of the flamboyant Queen frontman won him awards and the heart of his co-star Lucy Boynton, 25, the British actress who played ­Freddie’s long-time girlfriend Mary.

They have been together since they finished filming and divide their time between New York, LA and London.

“I am so lucky to have someone in my life who does very lovely, surprising things, has an amazing smile and keeps me very grounded,” says Rami.

Lucy sprang a surprise party for Rami when he turned 38 in May.

“I don’t like to celebrate my birthday,” he laughs, “but I could tell she was very nervous. I finished work early on Friday and she took me up to the rooftop and I thought something special was going on. Then my jaw just dropped.

“I saw the actors who play Brian May, John Deacon and Roger Taylor of Queen and one of our producers and ­executives on the film.

“I was awestruck seeing everyone and I couldn’t believe Lucy had flown them all in and planned an entire weekend for us.

“I couldn’t believe I was lucky enough to have someone that considerate in my life.”

Rami returned the surprise when he took Lucy to an Elton John concert in LA. “I called up Elton’s people and said, ‘Hey, could I get tickets to the show and surprise the lady with them?’” he says.

“Lucy didn’t know where she was going. I took her through the back door, walked her right on in and Elton blew us a kiss. The perks of playing a rock star!”

He also gave her a framed photo of them after he had won his Golden Globe for the role.

“It’s an exceptional photograph of us grinning ear to ear holding the Globe,” he says. “That was our favourite moment of the evening.

“It’s wonderful to not only have the award, but that picture of us, looking at each other eye to eye, and knowing the battle we fought to get there.”

Rami was talking in New York after finishing filming the final episode of the TV series Mr Robot, which first aired in 2015. He plays Elliot Alderson, a mentally unstable computer hacker, a ­performance which won him several drama critics’ awards and an Emmy.

Rami says: “When I heard it was ending I was disappointed because I love this character and this television show really changed how we look at television these days and how we look at heroes in the world.

“Everywhere I go, even after ­Bohemian Rhapsody and other projects, young people especially seem to gravitate towards this character.”

But Bond fans can’t wait to see Rami’s baddie taking on Daniel Craig’s 007 in the yet-to-be-named Bond 25.

Schedules had to be changed due to Craig’s leg injury but Rami has filmed key scenes in Norway.

“I’m thrilled to be working with Daniel,” he says.

Before taking on the Bond role Rami nearly made another appearance as Freddie Mercury in the Elton John biopic Rocketman – alongside Taron Egerton who played Elton.

“I thought about it, talked about it with Taron and if there was a way to do it we were going to try,” he says.

“We threw out ideas about where Freddie and Elton could be at the same time because they spent quite a bit of time together and would challenge each other on who could throw the most extravagant parties.”

However, he fears Fox, the film company who financed and ­distributed Bohemian Rhapsody, would have put a stop to it anyway.

He adds: “With the different studios involved I don’t think there was a chance in hell that Fox was going to let me do it. But we wanted to and it was a shame. I would have loved to.”

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