Rami Malek and Eddie Redmayne are no strangers to transformation. In 2014, Redmayne took home the Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, and most recently, reprised his role as lovable wizard Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. Malek, meanwhile, took on a very different real life figure this year, as Queen frontman Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody. When interviewed together, however, the two are far more normal—though no less charismatic—than their larger-than-life on-screen personas, as they chat about everything from karaoke adventures to first kisses. Here, the pair chat about what they learned from their roles, favorite Halloween costumes, and Redmayne's excitement about the upcoming The Hills reboot.
Have you two met before?
Eddie Redmayne: We met fleetingly.
Rami Malek: We met just the other night. I was having dinner with some of my cast mates from Bohemian Rhapsody, and it was an incredible table you were sitting at. I think it would be a dream come true for a lot of people. So, I'm gonna make you name drop everyone. Go ahead.
Redmayne: I can't remember who was there.
Malek: Yes, you can.
Redmayne: Jamie Dornan, Armie Hammer, Justin Theroux. It was only in Los Angeles. I promise you that's not my normal.
Malek: I was intimidated to walk up to this table, and I could just see everybody flipping out that you guys were all together.
Redmayne: But the first time we met, [it was] just after my daughter Iris was born, when sleep is really important. One night I heard these cranes going up outside, and I stormed outside, kind of furious. I saw these little letters on the thing saying there's gonna filming here tonight. They were literally outside our front door, and they were filming Bohemian Rhapsody. We had this amazing makeup artist called Jan Sue who I worked with in The Theory of Everything, and Rami worked with on Bohemian Rhapsody. I texted her going, "You're filming here?" So I took Iris, my daughter, and her first ever film set was your film set. I saw Rami from a distance, and I've gotta say you arrived on set so freaking in the zone that I was completely blown away by it. And then Iris started crying, and I was like, "Okie dokie."
Malek: I'll say this; I took so many lessons from you and The Theory of Everything. I absolutely fell in love with that performance. So enchanting, so deep, so wonderful, and so inspiring. I said, "Give me everything that he had in that film." I asked for Jan Sewell, and I asked for a movement teacher.
Redmayne: What was that process like? Working with a dancer on The Theory of Everything, that changed my life for me.
Malek: Almost the exact same thing. I met with choreographers to play Freddie Mercury, and the guy's just not choreographed; he's so spontaneous. I found Pauline Bennett, who was incredible with movement. I mean, there were moments she said, "giraffe" to me, and I kid you not, I could make a Freddie pose as a giraffe. Some moments she'd be like, "Okay, you know the, the lyrics to 'Killer Queen?' Do them as a Shakespearian soliloquy, if it were being played by Marie Antoinette."
What was the very first thing you auditioned for?
Malek: This is a pretty good story, actually. This first thing I auditioned for, I got a call from a casting director and she asked to speak to the agent representing Rami Malek, and I said, "Uh, speaking." And she said, "Well, what's your name?" And I said, "Well, this is Rami." And she kind of laughed and she said, "Are you SAG?" And I said, "No, but we can work on that too." She started laughing and laughing, and she said, "Alright, call me when you have an agent and you're set, properly." And I go, "You're already laughing, give me a shot." It was three lines in the Gilmore Girls, that's your answer. I got the part. I said something about an assistant pastor, Eric. That's all I can remember, and now people will look this up. It was great. Great show, great team to be a part of.
Redmayne: My first professional part was the book boy in [the West End musical] Oliver. I got to say, "Books you ordered from the bookseller, sir," and then I had to run off. But the important thing was that I leave the books and then I run off too quickly, and so Oliver has to take the books back and he gets caught by the gang and stuff. But because I had this big moment, I would go home like, "Books you ordered from the bookseller, sir," and I'd like gently saunter off the stage. The director came up finally and said, "You have to run off. It's essential for the plot point that you run off."
What was the first album you bought?
Redmayne: I think it was by the Beautiful South. You know not to get me started on music because I have the worst taste in music.
Malek: [Mine was] Bob Dylan, I think. "Blonde on Blonde," and I bought a Joan Baez album, I can't remember the name of it. But she sang on one of his tracks or maybe numerous tracks, but I had to have them both. And then I bought Leonard Cohen.
Redmayne: Rami, you're making me sick! I bought "Always" by Bon Jovi. I like a good emotional ballad.
Eddie, do you have a karaoke song?
Redmayne: Alright, you know Leona Lewis's "Bleeding Love?" It's the greatest YouTube hole to go down: Leona Lewis, when she was on X Factor. Each week she just came and delivered and delivered. Occasionally she'd take her shoes off, and yeah, it's a good YouTube hole to go down.
Do you still watch X Factor?
Redmayne: No, I don't. But occasionally on a Saturday night I will turn it on, because, particularly when I'm working, I find like I can't watch proper television. I have to watch just mindless reality TV.
Malek: I can watch documentaries, maybe. I won't watch movies, cause then I start comparing myself to the actors I'm watching. That's a horrible, abusive thing to do to oneself.
Do you ever watch reality TV?
Malek: Not really, no. I work on the show called Mr. Robot, and Christian Slater and Carly Chaikin meet and watch The Bachelor, so I was like, "Okay, let me join in on the group fun." That wasn't for me.
Redmayne: I'm quite excited because *The Hills*, which was my original reality TV guilty pleasure, is coming back.
Malek: What is The Hills about? Pitch me The Hills.
Redmayne: The Hills is about various genetically beautiful [people] around LA just chatting to each other. It starts with Natasha Bedingfield's song, which I didn't buy the single of, but I might has well of.
Who was your favorite person on the show?
Redmayne: I was inclined to Heidi Montag, who I sort of had a bit of a love-hate relationship with.
Do you have any secret skills?
Redmayne: I'm incredibly good at being early. I'm always the person who gets to the airport like a good four hours early.
Malek: If we're going on the time thing, I manage to get to the airport about a minute or two before the plane actually takes off. I've never missed a flight.
Redmayne: When I first went on holiday with my wife, before we were married, we were going to Italy and it was agreed that we would meet on the plane because I knew that our burgeoning relationship would not last because she's the antithesis [of me]. She's like sensationally late all the time. And I'll never forget, we were flying to Florence and I got on this EasyJet plane and I was sitting in the back surrounded by like three Irish monks and a nun and they were like, "Ladies and gentleman. I'm afraid this plane can't take off because there's one passenger that's late.' Then my wife comes in. If we had met in the airport, I think the relationship would have died before we even started. But fortunately, there were some calming Irish monks.
When was your first kiss?
Redmayne: It was at a school when I was about nine years old and the school that I was at, next door was a Swedish school. My friend was Swedish and there was a Swedish school disco and played a game of spin the bottle and if it landed on a girl, then I was gonna have to kiss them in the middle. It did land on a girl and I kissed her and I just remember the taste of Hubba Bubba. That's my memory.
Malek: I was very, very young, and I have an identical twin brother and he did really well with people across the board and girls, as well, and I got a little jealous, you know, that he'd had his first kiss. He'd had a couple first kisses and I hadn't. I thought, "You know, let's never use this twin thing to our advantage."
Redmayne: Oh, that is bad, mate.
Malek: It's bad.
What was your favorite Halloween costume?
Redmayne: In Britain, we have this weird thing with Halloween where you get dressed up as a witch or a wizard. When I was making a film called The Other Boleyn Girl with Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman, they had a Halloween party. All of the British actors and crew all turned up with a witches nose or a pointy hat and Scarlett came in this kind of extraordinary dress with all these birds attached to it and she was from The Birds and that sort of made sense 'cause it's kind of horror, and Natalie came with her friends as the girls from Grease. I was like, "That's nothing to do with Halloween." Then got explained to me that basically in America, it's just an excuse to wear whatever you want.
Malek: We were shooting on Bohemian Rhapsody and since I had one of the greatest makeup artists in the world, we got off a little bit early and I had her turn me into Edward Scissorhands. I did Beetlejuice once. I really get into Halloween. My favorite was I did Forrest Gump, but the young Forrest. I made the leg braces myself. I went to Home Depot, and I got all the things to mechanically put this together. It looked pretty cool; so much that I got to do a film with Tom Hanks, and I thought, "I have to show him this, but will it be offensive at all?" But he just started laughing. He gets a laugh out of so many things, he just said, “Oh, you kooky kids.”
Rami, what is your go-to karaoke song?
Malek: In Japan, they love karaoke and I went with the members of our version of Queen, and we dressed up in animal onesies and we did "Bohemian Rhapsody" in the shape of the original music video. It was filmed by someone and I'm sure someone will probably get drunk and throw it out there into the ether. [Now,] I'm not big on karaoke after doing Bohemian Rhapsody for six months.
Redmayne: After doing what you had to do, and pushing yourself physically into such a space of exhibitionism and self-confidence that he had in those moments, has it changed you?
Malek: Yeah, very much. I feel quite liberated. I learned a lot from him. He's just so defiant, so authentic, so real, and that's what you get when you see him on stage. He is his own perfect, beautiful self and he looks out into the audience, he says, “You have the freedom to do the same thing, so I'll enjoy this and do this."
Eddie, what did you learn from Stephen Hawking?
Redmayne: Actually, it's weird because the film I've just finished is about people that go up in an air balloon and are trying to, in the 19th century, discover about the stars and the sky and the atmosphere, and the theme of that is one of Stephen's great things, which is keep looking up. That idea of this world we're in at the moment, of always looking down and into our phones and kind of insular and tying ourselves in, the idea of looking up was something that Stephen spoke about and I think it's the most beautiful thing.
Malek: That's gorgeous. I did the last Night at the Museum with Robin Williams and he could see this evolution of everybody being on their devices. We got to shoot in the British Museum and I think he saw everybody kinda on their phones and he went off and was just standing by this rock. I thought, “Oh, he just wants to be alone, but what's he doing over there, just staring out into space, is he okay?” And I walked over to him and, we had got pretty close over the course of doing those films, and I said, “What's going on?” And he just whispers,"You know, it's not often that you get a chance to be alone with the Rosetta Stone.”