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The 2019 Oscars faced controversy when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences handed the polarizing Greenbook the Academy Award for Best Picture over movies such as Roma, A Star is Born, The Favourite, and BlacKkKlansman.
However, there wasn’t as much controversy when Los Angeles-native Rami Malek won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance as Freddie Mercury in the biopic on the legendary British singer-songwriter, Bohemian Rhapsody.
He beat out heavyweights such as Christian Bale (Vice) and Bradley Cooper (A Star is Born), though many felt that the duo was just as worthy, if not more, as Malek.
Bale was not someone you would peg to play a character such as the former United States Vice President Dick Cheney, because physically they are nothing alike, but the former Batman actor put on more than 40 pounds to play the part.
“Bale might not seem like the obvious casting choice for Cheney,” wrote Vanity Fair. “He’s 44, English, and, well, Christian Bale. Cheney, meanwhile, is 77, American, and his silhouette is more Penguin than Batman.”
And Cooper took on 18 months of vocal training and six months of piano and guitar lessons to play the fictional Jackson Maine. And the most impressive part is that his vocals in the movie are live and untampered with.
Whereas the 37-year-old Malek wasn’t even the initial choice to portray Mercury.
“I may not have been the obvious choice, but I guess it worked out,” said Malek thanking Fox and “everyone who believed in me. It’s something I will treasure for the rest of my life.”
That honor was supposed to go to Sasha Baran Cohen, who decided against the role because his visions for the film did not align with those of producer Graham King’s.
Malek’s most prominent role before the biopic was the lead character in USA Network’s critically-acclaimed Mr. Robot, and after watching that, you know he was extremely talented, evidenced by his Emmy Award.
“I told Graham King if he gave me this role, I’d bleed for it, and he showed me a picture of blood on the piano keys after the final day of our Live Aid shoot,” the actor said.
Malek is the first Best Actor of Arab heritage, and in the process, gave representation for the LGBTQ community. Mercury’s sexuality was never confirmed, but he was involved with both men and women, initially marrying Mary Austin before leaving her for a man.
“We made a film about a gay man who was an immigrant, who lived his life unapologetically,” said Malek onstage.
The Oscars continued his breakout year, as he also won Best Actor at the Golden Globe’s, BAFTAs, and Screen Actors Guild.