Rami Malek is running late – but he has a pretty good excuse for 2021.
« I’m in Los Angeles right now, working on a movie. That means a COVID test every day. That kept me from catching you on time, » he apologizes. « It’s very unusual, but what is more unusual is how we get used to it and realize that this is now part of the day. »
The Oscar winner is thrilled to get back to work after the entire film industry came to a standstill last year, but is excited about his new project, an as-yet-untitled David O. Russell film in which Robert De also stars Niro, Christian Bale, Anya Taylor Joy and Aussie Margot Robbie.
« I can’t talk about the film at all, unfortunately, but I will say that it is doing great and I am enjoying my time very much and I have enjoyed every second getting to know Margot, » he says. « She’s an extraordinary actress and I can’t say more about her as a person. »
Rather, he wants to talk about his new crime novel The Little Things. It’s his first feature film release since winning his Best Actor Academy Award for Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody and Oscar winners Denzel Washington and Jared Leto.
Malek plays a brilliant but buttoned-down detective, Jimmy Baxter, who tracks down a serial killer in Los Angeles in the early 1990s. This location reminded the son of Egyptian immigrants of his own childhood. Malek says he was drawn to the prospect of walking head-to-toe with Washington playing a jaded older detective, as well as the fascinating psychology of the driven souls who really catch murderers. Director John Lee Hancock made sure that two real life detectives were on set as consultants during the filming. The more Malek pumped her for information and explored his own character, the more similarities emerged between the two professions.
Malek was particularly impressed with how immersive and intricate the work got for some detectives, to the point where they find it difficult to divide their professional and personal lives. Malek realized he had had similar experiences with his own career, playing characters like Elliot in Mr Robot (for which he won an Emmy Award), Corporal Merriell « Snafu » Shelton in the Pacific, and of course, Queen frontman Mercury, whom he did played says was « the most haunting role I’ve ever played ».
« There is actually a phrase called ‘Detective Myopia,' » he says. « And I can see how we as actors invest in our characters in a very similar way. We are sometimes cut off from the rest of the world, we don’t take calls and we dive into the story of one particular person and then into an even bigger one that is in the Nature becomes overwhelming and all-encompassing. »
Malek says there were times when he directed the drama The Pacific in Australia during World War II – he spent most of a year here from 2007 to 2008 – that were so intense that he struggled to get away from it Figure loosening up, withdrawing and having « very little » human contact with anyone outside of the set. « Nonetheless, he fondly remembers his time here thanks to » the tremendous generosity with which I have been met by every Australian person « and unique experiences like learning to dive on the Great Barrier Reef.
« It has inevitably been a phenomenal, extremely rewarding job and I’ve seen parts of Australia that I might not otherwise have had a chance to do, » he says. « Between the people, the generosity, the beautiful landscape and the hospitality, this will forever be the special perspective I have on my long stay in Australia. »
It will be two years later this month since Malek took the stage at the Dolby Theater to accept his Oscar for Best Actor, but he is truly stunned when asked how the coveted award changed his life.
« How has it changed my life? » He pauses after a long pause. « It was a really incredibly sweet moment that I’m extremely proud of and that I look back on as an accomplishment that I had with this cast that I’m still incredibly close to.
« It was the process of working on this character for two years and sort of an affirmation that if you really invest in this work, you can be up there with the best of the best. Even so, I can still re-center myself and acknowledge that the work is still the work and you have to get out of there and prove yourself anyway. »
The Little Things shouldn’t have been Malek’s first film since Bohemian Rhapsody. For more than a year, James Bond fans have seen tantalizing glimpses of him as the scar-faced Safin, 007’s main antagonist in Daniel Craig’s swan song No Time To Die, which was originally due to be released in April and has already been postponed several times due to the pandemic. With a reported price of well over $ 300 million, it has to open as big as possible in October, but Malek says it’s worth waiting to see on the big screen.
“It’s a must-see film in the cinema, so I’m part of the group that says if you have to wait – then we just have to wait,” he says. « This is exactly the world we live in right now and for people to get this right and get the amount of fans that I think the stewards of this great franchise know can be in the theater is something that forces them to keep pushing the movie until there is a particular equation that works for them.
« I’m glad this is happening because I want as many people as possible to see this. Daniel Craig is just phenomenal in the movie and I think Cary Fukunaga did a very special job too and it’s a great goodbye for him . »
The Little Things opens in theaters on February 18th and is shown in advance this weekend
The Little Things director John Lee Hancock was overjoyed when the first person he got on board was Denzel Washington, but there were a number of problems as well.
« You want to make sure everyone you cast gets in the ring with Denzel, » he says. « And that’s not a long list. »
However, when casting fellow Oscar winners Rami Malek and Jared Leto, he found that he had two very different actors with two very different approaches that both could mix with the legend.
« It was fascinating, » says Hancock. « I think both Jared and Rami loved the idea of being in scenes with Denzel and they all brought their A-game with them. But you could feel the camaraderie that grew between them and the respect that was already there . »
Malek says he didn’t want to miss the chance to have a front row seat to watch a master at work and preferred to stay on set rather than on his trailer, even for scenes he wasn’t in was.
« One thing that has struck me over and over again, of course, is the attention to detail, » he says of Washington. « A lot of actors come in with an idea of what exactly they want and can’t move too far in one direction or another. What is great about Denzel is that he is as specific as you can be in the moment pretty extraordinary to see. »
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