On Tuesday, Sep. 5, Entertainment Weekly revealed the first image of actor Rami Malek in his portrayal of the enigmatic and deeply loved Queen frontman, the late Freddie Mercury.
Malek’s turn as the singer, songwriter, composer, activist, and all-around tour de force has already sparked a great deal of conversation. Since it was first announced that director Bryan Singer was at the helm of the ambitious biopic, and Malek was slated to play the role of one of music’s most influential vocalists and public figures, reactions have been somewhat mixed.
Questions of both Malek’s sexuality and his ethnic background were foremost in criticism about his casting. Mercury was very openly and unapologetically bisexual. Though Malek’s personal life is certainly his and is should not be open for public scrutiny, there’s been no indication on his part that he identifies as anything other than heterosexual. His is a name added to a long list of straight actors portraying characters or public figures that fall on the LGBT spectrum, a point of contention for many.
Mercury was also of Indian descent, being born to Indian Parsi parents in Zanzibar, Tanzania. Malek is Egyptian-American. Many are contented with the fact that at the very least a man of Middle Eastern heritage is actually portraying Mercury, adding to the overall realism of his characterization. However, there were a few grumblings about the inability of Hollywood to cast actors 100 percent true to form of their characters.
Initial hesitancy aside, upon the revelation of the first images, the response was overwhelmingly positive. Malek is known for his emotional depth and his desire to bring a great deal of gravitas to every character. Indeed, many were taken aback by just how close a resemblance Malek has to Mercury. Though there are still the dubious few who are unconvinced (citing his overall body type as cause for skepticism), the resounding reaction is a mixture of awe and impassioned surprise.
Freddie Mercury’s story is emotional, as is the connection to his legacy. Malek certainly doesn’t lack for dedication. The singing will reportedly be a combination of Malek’s own voice, Mercury’s, and a vocal fill-in. He told Entertainment Weekly that he was at the famous Abbey Road Studios recording for the film.
It’s still remains to be seen if Malek can carry Mercury’s story with the alacrity many are hoping for. But at the very least he takes his responsibility as the one who’ll depict the icon very seriously.
The film, titled “Bohemian Rapsody” in homage to the vocal and compositional masterpiece of the same name, is slated for release Dec. 25, 2018.