Rami Malek is set to play Freddie Mercury in the upcoming Queen biopic

November 5, 2016
Freddie Mercury
Freddie Mercury

By Guest Contributor: Lakshmi Gandhi (@LakshmiGandhi)

After seeing Hollywood green-light projects that actively erase Asian Americans from the silver screen (think Emma Stone playing Allison Ng or a whitewashed Doctor Strange) it’s understandable if  pop culture watchers reflectively flinch when they hear news of upcoming mainstream film projects featuring characters of color.

That’s also why I did a little squeal of glee in the middle of Starbucks on Friday when I saw the news that Mr. Robot’s Rami Malek was just cast as Freddie Mercury in the upcoming Queen biopic, which is titled Bohemian Rhapsody.  Malek’s casting is also hopefully a sign that this movie (which was first announced way back in 2007) is finally on the right track.

Rami Malek in USA's Mr. Robot.
Rami Malek in USA’s Mr. Robot.

The past nine years have seen a slew of names attached to the role of Freddie Mercury, notably those of Sacha Baron Cohen and (in a particular headscratcher) Ben Whishaw.

Earlier this year, Baron Cohen told Howard Stern that one of the big reasons he walked away from the project was because of his disagreements with the surviving members of Queen on how Mercury’s life should be portrayed.

“There are amazing stories about Freddie Mercury. “he guy was wild. I mean he was living an extreme lifestyle. There are stories of… little people with plates with cocaine on their heads walking around a party.”

Cohen, however, said he understood why the surviving members of Queen wanted a more PG-rated version of the film that vaunted the band’s legacy.

(If you know anything about Freddie Mercury’s life, you know that it would be very hard to create an interesting version of his life story that was also PG-rated.)

While Baron Cohen —  who is of Persian Jewish descent — seemed a tolerable choice given his passing resemblance to Mercury, many fans (myself included) were exasperated by the rumored selection of Whishaw in 2013. One fan petition urged both the band and the filmmakers to cast a South Asian or Persian actor for the role. “This movie will be very important in telling Freddie Mercury’s story, and should be honest, respectful and authentic,” the organizers wrote at the time.

Considering that Mercury’s Parsi background and South Asian roots have often been overlooked by biographers and music journalists, perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that many music fans still do not know about Mercury’s background. But let’s hope that the casting of Malek — who is Arab American — means that the screenwriters are willing to at least acknowledge things like Mercury’s childhood in Bombay and his family’s unique immigration story as Indian immigrants to Britain in the 1960s.

Granted, these are very high expectations for what will ultimately be a film directed by X-Men’s Bryan Singer. But then again, what is life without dreams?

Lakshmi Gandhi
Lakshmi Gandhi

Lakshmi Gandhi is a journalist and pop culture writer based in New York. Her work has appeared in Metro New York, NBC Asian America and NPR’s Code Switch blog, among other sites. She likes it when readers tweet her @LakshmiGandhi with their thoughts on Asian American issues and romance novels.

Learn more about Reappropriate’s guest contributor program and submit your own writing here.

Did you like this content? Please consider becoming a patron of Reappropriate and get exclusive access to the brand new Reappropriate vlog!

Comment Policy

Before posting, please review the following guidelines:

  • No ad hominem attacks: A person's identity, personal history, or background is not up for debate. Talk about ideas, not people.
  • Be courteous: Respect everyone else in this space.
  • Present evidence: This space endeavours to encourage academic and rational debate around identity politics. Do your best to build an argument backed not just with your own ideas, but also with science.
  • Don't be pedantic: Listen to those debating you not just for places to attack, but also where you might learn and even change your own opinion. Repeatedly arguing the same point irrespective of presented counterfacts will now be considered a violation of this site's comment policy.
  • Respect the humanity of all groups: To elevate the quality of debate, this site will no longer tolerate (racial, cultural, gender, etc.) supremacist or inferiority lines of argumentation. There are other places on the internet where nationalist arguments can be expressed; this blog is not those places.
  • Don't be an asshole: If you think your behaviour would get you punched in the face outside of the internets, don't say it on the internets.
  • Don't abuse Disqus features: Don't upvote your own comments. Don't flag other people's comments without reasonable cause. Basically, don't try to game the system. You are not being slick.

Is your comment not approved, unpublished, or deleted? Here are some common reasons why:

  • Did you sign in? You are required to register an account with Disqus or one of your social media accounts in order to comment.
  • Did your comment get caught in the spam filter? Disqus is set to automatically detect and filter out spam comments. Sometimes, its algorithm gets over-zealous, particularly if you post multiple comments in rapid succession, if your comment contains keywords often associated with spam, and/or if your comment contains multiple links. If your comment has been erroneously caught in the spam filter, contact me and I will retrieve it.
  • Did a comment get flagged? Comments will be default be published but flagged comments will be temporarily removed from view until they are reviewed by me.
  • Did you not play nice? You may have gotten banned and a bunch of your comments may have been therefore deleted. Sorry.

I monitor all comment threads, and try to address comments requiring moderation within 24-48 hours. Comments that violate this comment policy may receive a warning and removal of offensive content; overt or repeat violations are subject to deletion and/or banning of comment authors without warning.

I reserve final decision over how this comment policy will be enforced.


Play nice and don't be a jerk, and you'll do just fine.