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Rami Malek Refused to Play a Religious Villain in New Bond Film

Rami Malek at the the 68th Emmy Awards. (Photo: Walt Disney Television)
Rami Malek at the the 68th Emmy Awards. (Photo: Walt Disney Television)

Rami Malek has agreed to portray a terrorist in the next Bond film but promised the villain will be “a very different kind.”

Oscar-winning actor Rami Malek revealed that he would only play the new villain in an upcoming James Bond movie if there were no links to any religion.

Malek, who is Egyptian-American, won an Oscar this year for his portrayal of late rock icon Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody.

In an interview with the Daily Mirror and Daily Express newspapers, the 38-year-old actor said that he’d discussed his reservations with Cary Fukunaga, director of the upcoming James Bond movie.

“I said, ‘We cannot identify him with any act of terrorism reflecting an ideology or religion,'” Malek recounted. “‘That’s not something I would entertain, so if that is why I am your choice then you can count me out.'”

Malek affirmed that director Fukunaga shared a similar vision, prompting the actor to accept the role. However, the character will be a terrorist — “a very different kind,” insisted Malek.

Although it’s admirable that Malek and the filmmakers behind the new film are averting any links between terrorism and a specific religion, it’s notable that Malek, who is from an Arab-speaking country, is playing a terrorist nonetheless. Is this still stereotyping?

Malek was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, with parents who immigrated from Cairo, Egypt. Although technically in Africa, Egypt is also considered part of the Middle East — with a shared language, culture, religion, and physical appearances.

In fact, Malek has previously played terrorists before, including a recurring role in 2010 as a suicide bomber on the eighth season of the Fox series “24.” He eventually expressed dismay at playing roles that depicted Middle Easterners in a “negative light,” vowing not to accept such work anymore.

In our politically divided times in the U.S. and abroad, such casual stereotypes in the media may have deeper consequences than we think. The FBI has confirmed that hate crimes based on religion and race have risen in the past two years. The Anti-Defamation League reported that anti-Semitic crimes have increased, with a noticeable spike in 2018.

The upcoming James Bond film is the 25th in its franchise and is currently filming in the United Kingdom. Daniel Craig will reprise his role as the titular spy for the fifth time. The film will be released in April 2020.


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