Rami Malek joins Christopher Nolan's Oppenheimer: read about his rise to the top

Rami joins A-list cast of Oppenheimer
An incredible mix of talent
Avoiding the stereotype
Rami Malek, the Egyptian superstar
The family in search of the American Dream
The Egyptian Arabic siblings
The boy in the valley who never saw the bigger picture
The small-town, shy guy
Dedicated from the very start
Graduation
Missed out on an M&Ms commercial
Falafel and Shawarma
The Egyptian Pharaoh
Typecast?
A man with two options
Trying to distance himself from the 'terrorist' roles
Twilight Saga
It has got to end
Others tried to distance themselves entirely from their culture
Lack of racial diversity in Hollywood
Now no one will forget his face
Freddie
History repeats
Shocking statistics
A different kind of terrorist
Rami joins A-list cast of Oppenheimer

Christopher Nolan is set to bring us something wonderful in 2023... 'Oppenheimer'. The director has previously brought in millions from his successes such as 'Inception' and 'Dunkirk', but this time he is going radioactive: telling the story of American scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer and his role in the development of the atomic bomb. And he's got some big names to star in it.

An incredible mix of talent

With a budget of $100 million, Nolan has definitely spent his money buying the best talent there is and he's got together a cast that includes Florence Pugh, Robert Downey Jr., Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Cillian Murphy and now, of course, Rami Malek. Magic.

Avoiding the stereotype

Rami joins the cast playing a scientist - not much more is known yet about his contribution to the film; it's still early days. But one thing is for sure, this fashionable superstar will be, once again, spreading his wings and playing something totally different to his previous roles. Malek has worked hard throughout his career to try and avoid the 'Egyptian' stereotype.

Rami Malek, the Egyptian superstar

Malek is the first actor of Egyptian descent to win an Oscar and has become one of Hollywood's biggest names. But he comes from humble beginnings and, when he eventually made it onto the screen, had a hard time avoiding the 'Egyptian' stereotype.

The family in search of the American Dream

Malek’s family emigrated from Cairo, Egypt, to Los Angeles in 1978, shortly before Malek was born, in search of the American dream. His father was a tour guide in Cairo.

The Egyptian Arabic siblings

Rami was born four minutes before his identical brother, Sami, who became an English teacher. He also has an older sister, Yasmine, who is an ER doctor. They all spoke Egyptian Arabic at home until Rami and Sami turned four.

The boy in the valley who never saw the bigger picture

He was born in Los Angeles and grew up in a sheltered home, never really venturing out in to the wider world. He said in an interview, "I grew up in the San Fernando Valley in LA, but somehow, I had no idea that I lived right next to Hollywood... I truly thought that that was a million miles away, and it's just a 10-minute drive."

The small-town, shy guy

Rami was a first-generation American. Despite this, he had his own cultural differences, making it hard for him to assimilate. He experienced cultural issues from a very young age - he realised small things, like his name bring different and hard to pronounce. He said, "It only took me 'til high school where I found the confidence to tell everybody, 'No, my name is Rami.' It's a very upsetting thing to think about, that I didn't have the confidence to correct anyone at that point."

Dedicated from the very start

Then Malek discovered drama at high school and started to pursue a career in entertainment. He remembers some hesitation and worry from his parents about his career choice and also remembers the day his father walked in to his room and saw him stuffing envelopes with his headshot to send to possible agents and casting directors. It was only then that his family realised he was serious about following this profession.

Graduation

Rami Malek graduated from Notre Dame high school. His high school colleagues were Kirsten Dunst and Rachel Bilson, with whom he shared musical theatre classes with. Despite this obvious circle of talent, his parents wanted him to focus on becoming a lawyer, so he attended debate classes, too.

Missed out on an M&Ms commercial

But Malek was determined to be seen by the big names in the industry. Working at a Hollywood restaurant, he made sure his headshot went into the hands (or mail boxes) of everyone he believed to be a producer. Eventually it got him an audition for an M&M's commercial. Sadly he didn’t get the part.

Falafel and Shawarma

During this time Rami moved to a tiny apartment in New York where he was trying to create a theatre company. Rami took jobs delivering pizzas to make ends meet. He also made falafel and shawarma sandwiches at a restaurant in Hollywood to make ends meet. The Arab stigma was not going to leave him anytime soon.

The Egyptian Pharaoh

Malek’s Egyptian roots no doubt helped him land his first big-screen role, Pharaoh Ahkmenrah in 'Night at the Museum.' He reprised the role for its two sequels.

(Photo: 20th Century Fox)

Typecast?

Malek played a Marcos Al-Zacar, a bomber who would also take his own life, in the eighth season of '24.' Malek was obviously not oblivious to the danger of being typecast in these sorts of roles.

(Photo: Fox)

A man with two options

Many years later, the actor would muse: "In the West, actors of Middle Eastern descent typically have two options: be ignored, or be stereotyped."

Trying to distance himself from the 'terrorist' roles

Malek realised his first big roles were obviously related to his roots and heritage, but he also knew how difficult it was to get a break in Hollywood, so in the beginning he sacrificed his principles and took what was offered.

Twilight Saga

In 2012, Rami Malek played the role of the Egyptian Vampire in the 'Twilight' saga: 'Breaking Dawn-Part 2.' At least his character was actually one of the most powerful and 'good' characters in the whole franchise.

(Photo: Summit Entertainment)

It has got to end

Rami said in an interview, 'In the past it was like, ''Oh well, he’s an acceptable terrorist! He’s an accessible terrorist!'' But after I did that I said to myself, ''You know what? Bullsh**. No more. This is not how I want it.'' The actor, despite offers, drew a line and refused to be in any roles where he would play characters who were religious fundamentalists.

Others tried to distance themselves entirely from their culture

Rami recalls seeing other Middle Eastern actors going as far as changing their names to avoid being typecast by Hollywood. Malek, however, felt that a name change wasn’t necessary to get him where he wanted. And anyway, he was proud of his roots.

"These are my people"

Rami explained in an interview with GQ Magazine that his heritage was close to his heart. He said: "There’s no first-generation, or second-generation removed. I am Egyptian. I grew up listening to Egyptian music. I loved Umm Kulthum. I loved Omar Sharif. These are my people."

"It is the fabric of who I am"

He eloquently continued, "I feel so gorgeously tied to the culture and the human beings that exist there. I acknowledge that I have a different experience, but I am so enamoured and intertwined with Egyptian culture. It is the fabric of who I am."

Lack of racial diversity in Hollywood

One thing that kept Malek striving for his goal of making it into Hollywood was the fact that there was such little racial diversity at the time. When he was growing up he only saw cultural uniformity on the screen. He then had the thought that would spur him on the rest of his life: "I never saw anyone in a lead role that looked like me."

(Photo: Warner Bros)

Now no one will forget his face

This motivation that has been pushing Rami Malek through the tough times, allowed him to achieve the fame he has today. His performance in 'Papillon' really caught the world's attention and suddenly he was being called to the biggest role of his career so far.

Freddie

There was absolutely nothing said whatsoever that an Egyptian (Rami Malek) was playing an Indian Parsi (Freddie Mercury) in a film role. 'Bohemian Rhapsody' was a huge success. In fact, Rami made sure to praise the late Queen superstar in his acceptance speech saying the film was about "a gay man, an immigrant, who lived his life just unapologetically himself." Rami has also always been just unapologetically himself.

(Photo: 20th Century Fox)

"My story is being written right now"

Rami became an overnight symbol for many around the world who sought out the American dream. He said in the same acceptance speech: "I am a son of immigrants from Egypt, a first-generation American, and part of my story is being written right now." He was inspiring future generations to believe in themselves.

History repeats

Which brings us to modern day and Rami Malek's 2021 role in the 007 film, 'No Time to Die'. As Daniel Craig's last film, it was already going to have a lot of hype around it, but many have put a focus on the fact that, once again, the villain is being played by the 'Arab'.

Shocking statistics

In fact, the late scholar Jack G Shaheen noted that "of about a thousand films with Arab or Muslim characters made between 1896 and 2000, only 12 portrayed them positively." And this was before 9/11.

A different kind of terrorist

Rami Malek himself had already tackled the problem before taking on the role in 'No Time to Die.' As he told 'The Mirror: "It’s a great character and I’m very excited. But that was one thing that I discussed with [director] Cary Fukunaga. I said, ‘We cannot identify him with any act of terrorism reflecting an ideology or a religion. That’s not ­something I would entertain, so if that is why I am your choice then you can count me out’. But that was clearly not his vision. So he [Lyutsifer Safin, the villain] is a very different kind of terrorist."