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Rami Malek on Bond, bad guys and heading back to the cinema

Exclusive: The Oscar winner reveals to ShortList what it’s like to be the next Bond villain.

Rami Malek on Bond, bad guys and heading back to the cinema
Marc Chacksfield
25 September 2021

When Rami Malek was revealed as the latest Bond villain in No Time To Die, there was a collective sigh of relief. The big bad of the franchise was in safe hands, with an Oscar-winning actor who puts his everything into his roles.

Whether it’s a pitch-perfect performance as Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, the mysterious hacker Elliot Alderson in Mr Robot or the myriad versions of the same person he played in Buster’s Mal Heart, he’s an actor of the highest calibre.

We sat down with Malek to discuss his role as the sadistic Safin in No Time To Die, the Bond franchise as a whole and the exciting (and unexpected) future of Bond post Daniel Craig...

Rami Malek on Bond, bad guys and heading back to the cinema

ShortList: How does it feel to know that the world is finally going to see No Time To Die, after what's been somewhat of a delay.

Rami Malek: It's been a long time coming but kudos to Universal and MGM and Barbara [Broccoli, producer] and Michael [G. Wilson, producer] for really standing their ground. No Time To Die could have just gone out on a streamer and people wouldn't have been able to see it the way it was intended.

So I think this is going to be a good moment not just for the Bond franchise but also for people to return to the cinema and feel comfortable watching something extraordinarily entertaining.

SL: In the Being James Bond documentary, Daniel Craig said that once he was told he had the part of Bond, he bought himself a bottle of vodka, a cocktail shaker and started making some vodka martinis, What did you do when you found out you're going to be in a Bond movie?

RM: Well, once I heard what Daniel did, I did the exact same thing.

SL: Was it shaken or stirred though? That’s what we need to know.

RM: I tried both actually, just to see what the real difference was. I tried martinis with all the twists! But honestly, it's one of those moments where you just kind of, I still feel like a little kid when you have an opportunity and a moment like that. I'm yelling on the phone with my agents just screaming, probably blowing out their eardrums.

SL: Do you feel that Safin, as a Bond villain, is misunderstood or truly evil?

RM: At one point Daniel (Craig) said he's misunderstood. I don't know if he's being cheeky, or what. But from an acting perspective I usually try to find something that I can link to the character and empathise with and in this instance, you know, Safin is someone who was so far from my DNA that I just had to create something.

From start to finish that lived outside of me, and I find him pretty evil. This guy can just detach from emotion and be meticulous about, you know, carrying out his brutal, horrid, will.

Rami Malek on Bond, bad guys and heading back to the cinema

SL: Is there a particular Bond villain in the past that you are a fan of?

RM: I love all of the recent ones. Javier (Bardem) is one of my favourite actors. Between his roles as Silva [in Skyfall] and what he did as Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men, that always blew me away.

Scaramanga also sticks out and I love [Christopher] Walken as Max. There’s so many. Jaws scared the hell out of me as a little kid and I thought Oddjob was pretty clever, too.

SL: The Eon Bond saga is 25 films strong now. What do you think it is about the character and the franchise that gives it its lasting appeal?

RM: The franchise is one of the most unique and arguably the most special that film has seen, and there's something timeless about those books, with what Fleming originally wrote. But it’s also been in the hands of the same family for so long. It’s just so unique, in the way it's been prized and protected.

Even over the course of so many decades it's still only been, you know, 25 films. They could have been churning them out every year but it's the kind of delicacy that they've given and the nuance to each of the films, and the evolution. I mean look at what Daniel has been able to do with these five films and the emotional complexity that he's been able to bring. It keeps it fresh.

SL: Now Daniel Craig is leaving, where do you think the Bond franchise will go next?

RM: The world is changing, entertainment is changing. That means the next Bond could be anyone. I imagine it's gonna stay on this ‘island’ somehow but you never know, you never know where it could go and I think that something unexpected might actually be quite exciting.

No Time To Die is released in cinemas 30 September (UK) / October 8 (US). Being James Bond is available to watch for free now on Apple TV Plus.