Queen frontman Freddie Mercury was known not only for his one-of-a-kind voice and his ostentatious stage presence, but also for the costumes he donned during his performances. To properly emulate the late singer, star Rami Malek had to squeeze himself into costumes for “Bohemian Rhapsody” that caused him some worry.
“There was one thing I was concerned wearing, and that was the leotard,” Malek said during TheWrap’s cover shoot for the Actors / Directors / Screenwriters issue. “There’s a harlequin one, but the one I was worried about the most was the sequin one because it really leaves nothing to the imagination. Not only are you walking out there basically naked, but then you have to strut on stage with the utmost confidence. At one point, you just have to say, ‘Well, you gotta do it. If you’re going to emulate him, there is no fear on stage.'”
By the end of the shoot, Malek told his costume designer that he wanted a replica made of the leotard in ruby red.
“He started laughing because he knew that from the very beginning [that] I had a hard time with that outfit,” Malek added.
The actor, who is perhaps best known for his role in “Mr. Robot,” also said he prepared for the physical transformation by wearing fake teeth, and by bulking up and then crash dieting to portray the different stages of Mercury’s life. Mercury was born with four extra teeth in the back of his jaw, pushing his front teeth forward in a way that gave him the nickname “Bucky” when he was younger. Malek actually started practicing with a set of fake teeth a year before shooting even began. (After production wrapped, he had them cast in gold and is planning to auction the grill for charity in true “ostentatious Freddie” fashion.)
“They started out being pretty difficult to deal with,” he said. “We tried out all different sizes and when they first went in I felt very insecure, but immediately I compensated. Physically, I started to sit with more posture and elegance and I thought, ‘Oh, he is so elegant!’ You see him covering up his lips and his teeth all the time, and I could never quite get the hang of it. But as soon as those teeth went in, it was done. It was little things like that that were very informative for me.”
For Live Aid, the 1985 charity concert that included a Queen set that has since been dubbed one of the greatest live performances of all time, in particular, Malek had to add muscle to exert the same energy Mercury had on stage some 33 years ago.
“I didn’t really want to bulk up, per se — I just wanted to get my body into a place where I could do a 22-minute concert over and over for five days and not be out of breath,” he explained. “Well, it’s highly impossible to do that. There were days when I found myself laying on my back trying to just absorb as much air as possible.”
Watch the video above.