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Why Rami Malek Is Meant To Be a Bond Villain

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Michael Wynands
Sure, the hero’s important, but a film is really only as good as its bad guy. Join WatchMojo.com as we discuss why Rami Malek is meant to be a Bond villain. The 25th Bond film sees Daniel Craig return for his fifth and allegedly final performance as the titular secret agent. His tenure has been marked by much more significant highs than lows, and with that in mind, we’d love to see him hang up the tuxedo and pistol in style with his best Bond film to date. While there are a lot of factors that go into making a solid Bond movie, the quality of the villain really can make or break the film. Watch the video at WatchMojo.com
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The 25th Bond film sees Daniel Craig return for his fifth and allegedly final performance as the titular secret agent. His tenure has been marked by much more significant highs than lows, and with that in mind, we’d love to see him hang up the tuxedo and pistol in style with his best Bond film to date. While there are a lot of factors that go into making a solid Bond movie, the quality of the villain really can make or break the film.

The internet offers up no shortage of potential candidates for future Bond villains. Names such as Benedict Cumberbatch, James McAvoy and Viggo Mortensen are spoken in the same breath as the likes of Christopher Plummer, Anthony Hopkins and Daniel-Day Lewis. It’s a veritable free for all! And while some of these suggestions feel like fan casting in the truest sense (ie. enticing but unrealistic), it’s safe to say that many actors would indeed jump at the opportunity to leave their mark on the iconic franchise. And yet, amidst what we can only imagine was steep competition, it’s Rami Malek who ultimately rose to the top of the pile of contenders. We might not have come up with it ourselves, but we think it’s an inspired choice. Rami Malek is meant to be a Bond villain.

Before we dive deeper into why Malek is such a good candidate, let’s take a look at past Bond villains to see what makes for a truly great one. A few of the names that come up most often are Auric Goldfinger, Raoul Silva, and of course, Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Jaws is obviously up there too, but in Malek’s case, we’re looking towards central villains for inspiration, not henchmen, however freaking awesome they might be.

Gert Fröbe played Auric Goldfinger jolly yet menacingly, managing to have the character come off as superficially aloof (and at times almost oafish), while simultaneously conveying that Goldfinger is always scheming, and calculating - taking everything in with a critical eye. It’s a brilliant performance, even with the dialogue overdubbed. Raoul Silva, as played by Javier Bardem, is much more calm and charming, but he is also very emotionally vulnerable - at times even poetic. Like Goldfinger, he is incredibly intelligent. Taken altogether, it makes for a rather creepy performance. And while we’re on the subject of “creepy”, Mads Mikkelsen deserves a nod for the quiet, unnerving menace of his character, Le Chiffre, in “Casino Royale”. Finally, you’ve got Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Now, there’s some debate as to which actor did it best, but Donald Pleasence is ranked highest in most people’s books. His look (parodied in Austin Powers), is delightfully over-the-top, but totally iconic. Pleasence doesn’t hold back, oozing with charisma and menace worthy of his stature of Bond’s big bad - and it totally works.

Using this modest but helpful sample pool, one could argue that a Bond villain should be intelligent and charismatic, but also notably a bit over-the-top and unconventional. Actors portraying a Bond villain should be able to confidently crank up their acting in terms of both drama and eccentricity. The trick is not taking it too far - for then you risk coming across as downright silly. It’s a fine line, but one that we believe Rami Malek is uniquely suited to walk with grace. Looking at the most recent Bond villains to make a big impression, creepiness is also a key factor, which let’s be honest, is a vibe that Malek can give off in the right context.

Don’t get us wrong, we think Rami Malek is plenty charming and cute, but depending on how he’s being shot, he definitely has the potential to get under you skin. Let’s take a look at this ad that the actor shot for Mandarin Oriental hotels, released in January of 2019. We’re not sure who put this commercial together, but they made some very odd creative choices, including doing it in a single take and leaving out any sort of music. The slow zoom is also a bizarre move. Whatever the intentions were, the end result is notably unnerving. Can’t you just imagine him ending off his little speech with “I’m a fan of yours, Mr. Bond”, right before doing something dastardly?

Now on everyone’s watch list, it’s safe to say that Malek has come a long way. His big break came when he landed the leading role in USA Network’s “Mr. Robot”. In it, he plays a troubled, mentally unstable, but brilliant computer hacker named Elliot Alderson. With a few tweaks, doesn’t that already sounds like the makings of a solid modern Bond villain? Malek earned almost instant and unanimous praise for his performance when the show debuted, and the accolades have only continued with subsequent seasons. Elliot is a role that demands a lot from Malek, who must simultaneously convey paranoia, social disorders and an anti-authority attitude while still maintaining a clear moral compass. If the screenwriters are crafting an emotionally and psychologically complex villain, then one need look no further than “Mr. Robot” for proof of Mr. Malek’s ability to play the role.

While Malek’s work on ”Mr. Robot” easily could have resulted in him getting typecast, his filmography, which includes movies like “Short Term 12” and “Papillon”, reminds us of his range. He also did motion capture work for the 2015 game “Until Dawn”, in which he actually played a villainous role. His next big break however, came in 2018, with the hugely successful biopic about Freddie Mercury and Queen, “Bohemian Rhapsody”. Playing the legendary singer was a major departure from his past roles, but he blew away critics and audiences with his mesmerizing performance. If this Bond film embraces the eccentricities or larger-than-life quirks of villains past, Malek’s work as Freddie Mercury suggests that playing a big personality or showman is not an issue for him.

While we’re on the subject of his acting chops, let’s talk about his method. Once a character actor, he’s since developed into a compelling leading man, but while the types of roles he gets may be changing, his committed acting style seems unlikely to. Talking with fellow actor Kirsten Dunst in 2016 as part of the “Actors on Actors” series, he described his process in a way that makes it sound both exhausting and remarkably thorough. First... he panics. Then he crafts an entire world for that character to inhabit: a life, backstory, memories, a set of personal tastes, etc. We can only imagine that doing this for a Bond villain would be a pretty taxing experience, but the resulting character could very likely wind up feeling like one of the most well-fleshed Bond villains we’ve ever encountered.

A few short years ago, when he was still best known as a television actor, Malek never would have appeared on the radar of a film franchise this large. But now that he’s got an Oscar, Golden Globe, SAG and BAFTA award for Best Actor to his name, well... he’s operating on a whole new level. And that’s a good thing, because considering his body of work thus far, he truly seems like he’s meant to play a Bond villain. Also, given the franchise’s propensity towards British villains, it doesn’t hurt to know that this American actor can turn in an award-winning performance while putting on an English accent. In many ways and for various reasons, this seems like a logical next step for the star. A new chapter of Rami Malek’s career is just beginning, and a role in a major franchise like James Bond feels like a perfect fit.

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