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91st Oscars Backstage Interview Transcript: ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

SPEECH BY: Rami Malek


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Q. Rami  
A. Wait a second.  Let's hold on.  Am I one of the last ones here?  Well, I just want to say thank you guys for being here.  And I will say this:  I don't think critically the decision on this film was unanimous, but I do appreciate everything you guys had to write.  As a kid, I read criticism of film, and I learned so much from it.  So no matter what, I still do very much appreciate you.  Thank you.  Who would like to begin? 

Q. I don't know how I can follow that.  Congratulations, first of all, and I know you've heard that a lot tonight.  But I have to ask, please explain to us and describe for us when you first got this role and what happened exactly at that moment and when did this role become a reality for you?  When did it really hit you that you're playing Freddie Mercury?
A. I really got blessed.  Last night Mr. Spielberg sent    he had his daughter come up to me and say, hey, make sure you say hi to Rami Malek.  It would mean a lot to me and it would mean a lot to him.  So I had a seminal moment in my life where I knew some auteurs could influence my life.  Since then, I'm about to begin Season 4 of MR. ROBOT with Sam Esmail.  And in the middle of the second    no, the third season, while we were working on that, I got a call from Graham King and Dennis O'Sullivan to meet them in Los Angeles, and they were fans of MR. ROBOT.  And I don't know how they thought a young man who felt so alienated, profoundly alienated, with such social anxiety could ever play Freddie Mercury.  But the one thing that was beautiful about it was I started to discover that in this audacious, present, communicative, powerful human being there was a sense of loneliness and a sense of anxiety, and I could relate the two together.  So I thank them for discovering that in me, but I do have to thank so many great auteurs who have brought me to the point where I felt confident in my work.  And Spike Lee is one of them.  Alfonso Cuarón is one of them.  Paul Thomas Anderson is one of them.  Sam Esmail is definitely one of them.  The list goes on.  But it was the confidence that they all imbued in me to be able to think that I could take on this challenge.  Then    well, that's a long story.  And Tom Hanks.  Let's not forget Tom Hanks.

Q. Allow me on behalf of all the Arab world to say congratulations.  We're so happy that you won with the participation of three nominees this year from the Arab world.  You have the trophy. 
A. Yes.

Q. I read that you grew up loving Umm Kulthum and Omar Sharif and there's plenty of Arab young talents growing up now loving Rami Malek.  If it's not too much to ask, can we get your answer?  What would you say to these guys or ladies, in Arabic, if possible?
A. Well, I will begin by saying [speaks Arabic.]  I would say that as a young man, my sister was born in Egypt.  I think when I grew up as a kid, I wanted    part of me felt like I need to shed some of that.  I wanted to    I didn't feel like I fit in.  I definitely felt like the outsider.  And as I got older, I realized just how beautiful my heritage and my tradition is, and the wealth of culture and magic and music and film and just pure art that comes out of the Middle East.  And now I'm so privileged to represent it.  And to anyone from there, and for that matter the entire world, we all got a shot at this.  We really do. 

Q. You gave a beautiful speech in which it seems like it talks a lot about what happened tonight.  There was a lot of inclusion it seems, a lot of films that have been talking about that aspect, and I wonder how much in that respect that this Oscar of yours now fits into that and reflects that. 
A. It's a political question, and I appreciate it, but   

Q. No, no.  I mean, I'm talking about the inclusion of the films. 
A. Yeah.  I will say, look, I mean, I grew up in a world where I never thought I was going to play the lead on MR. ROBOT because I never saw anyone in a lead role that looked like me.  I never thought that I could possibly play Freddie Mercury until I realized his name was Farrokh Bulsara, and that is the most powerful message that was sent to me from the beginning.  That was the motivation that allowed me to say, oh, I can do this.  And that man steps on stage and he moves people in a way that no one else does, and he has ability to look everyone in the eye and see them for who they are.  And that's because he was struggling to identify himself.  And all of that passion and virtue and everything burning inside of him allowed him to look to everybody else and say, hey, I see you.  Not right here in the front; I see you there in the back.  I see all of you, I will play to all of you, and together we will transcend.  Because it's not about being from one place or looking like one thing, one race.  Any of that.  We are all human beings.  And forgive me for this, but collectively we are all the champions. 

Q. Rami, I just was wondering after you finished shooting the film, how did you feel about your own performance?  Did you know that it was special and that it might end up in an Academy Award? 
A. I've got to say, being on that stage, I think I may have    I don't know how I looked on that stage, but I never thought this would happen in my life.  The one thing I can say about this as an actor, and there are so many of us who only dream of one thing.  And perhaps it's not this; it's just getting a job.  So the fact that I have this in my hand right now is beyond    excuse me    any expectation that myself or perhaps my family could have ever had.  And I'll just say that.  I mean, this has been a tough battle, and I think you all know about it, and the fact that I'm here celebrating with you is proof that a lot of things can be overcome, and that anything is possible.  And tonight I'm celebrating with all of you.  And anyone who has a dream, it can happen.  Thank you.



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