Rami Malek Accepts the Outstanding Performer of the Year Award @ SBIFF

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SANTA BARBARA, CA – FEBRUARY 01: (EDITORS NOTE: Image has been shot in black and white. Color version not available.) Rami Malek attends the Outstanding Performer Award Honoring Rami Malek during 34th Santa Barbara International Film Festival at Arlington Theatre on February 1, 2019 in Santa Barbara, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for SBIFF)

Day 3 at the 34th Annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival ended with an intimate tribute to Oscar nominated Actor Rami Malek who received the Outstanding Performer of the Year Award for his performance in FOX’s 2018 release, BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY.

Malek arrived to the tribute with friend and presenter Joe Mazzello and co-star Lucy Boynton. After baring the rainy night in Santa Barbara on the red carpet, Malek sat with The Hollywood Reporter’s Scott Feinberg for an in depth conversation and look back at his career.

Some of the highlights from the conversation included:

  • Malek was introduced onto the stage and greeted with a roaring standing ovation from the sold out theatre.
  • Malek took the audience back to his beginning sin acting which included a realization that he had no career in politics or debate and should rather take up a suggestion from a teacher to give dramatic interpretation a try.
  • On inviting his parents to his first play:
    • He saw his dad get emotional for the first time in my life
    • “This is happening because I picked up some words. Whatever was happening was something incredibly special and meant something to my life.”
  • On moving to Los Angeles to pursue his career:
    • “Every morning I was littering Los Angeles with manila envelopes.”
    • When he finally got a call from a casting agent he charmed her into giving him a shot by pretending to be his own agent for the first part of the conversation
  • On the lack of minorities in Hollywood:
    • He acknowledged that his early roles (an Egyptian King, Iraqi insurgent, Egyptian Vampire) were not the way he wanted things to be going
    • “This is not how I want to represent myself and if I keep doing this I will typecast myself and pigeon hole myself. I drew the line in the sand and said ‘that’s it’. I will represent my culture and heritage but it will be positive and down the line when it really makes sense.”
  • On Mr. Robot and working with Sam Esmail:
    • “I came in there, I read the script and thought wow, this is a really good script but an odd title and I thought oh this will go away. But it stuck.”
    • “I knew Sam had the gift of putting pen to paper. “
    • I had no idea how effecting this project would be to so many people around the world. I got to travel for BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY and so many kids came out to see me for Mr. Robot because they felt like they could stand up and speak their mind because of something we made for entertainment.”
    • When asked to give a tease of what is to come he said, “It’s the last season,” and smiled before taking the next question.
  • On preparing for BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY and working with the surviving members of Queen:
    • “My characters (Freddie and Elliot) are polar opposites, one who can command the stage and one who can barely leave his computer monitor but in some ways they share this loneliness and they are not so dissimilar.”
    • “I said yes right away to playing Freddie and moments later I thought, ‘what have you done?’”
    • Even before their was a major studio attached to the project, Malek began preparing, “As soon as I felt like I might be playing him, I wasn’t going to be caught off guard and I sat down with some choreographers in London and realized I needed to be able to invent things on the spot.” He goes on to talk about his work with a young movement coach, Polly Bennett, who was “passionate and spoke to me in a way that I knew we were gonna get along.”
    • He recounts the feeling of having the surviving members of Queen on set including Brian May. “Without them, we wouldn’t have the story and they could have harped on anything that didn’t seem genuine. Right from the start Brian May came in there and he wanted us to succeed. He was extending all the love and admiration and acceptance, most of all. He would say ‘I can’t believe you guys are telling our story.’ I looked so forward to the days when he was there because it made me want to give my best Freddie.”

At the conclusion of the conversation, Malek’s longtime friend and BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY co-star Joe Mazzello was introduced to the stage to present Malek with his award. Malek earlier referenced the beginning of their friendship discussing their immediate chemistry 12 years ago while reading for Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg for THE PACIFIC. Joe went on boasting about his friend saying, “I’m so happy Rami is finally being recognized for his work on this movie that has been terribly overlooked,” to roaring laughter. “I so admired his grace under pressure. As long as we had Rami, we were gonna be alright. It was a privilege to share the screen, again, with the man who makes it great.”

While accepting his award, Malek continued his compliments of Joe saying, “I learned subtlety in acting from this man and I treasure this relationship. He is someone who I’ve garnered so much education from, from the perspective of being a good human being. I thank you so much for everything.”

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