×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Bohemian Rhapsody’: How a Makeup Team Transformed Rami Malek Into Freddie Mercury

The first time makeup, hair and prosthetics designer Jan Sewell met Rami Malek while prepping for “Bohemian Rhapsody,” she spent a lot of time studying his face. But she was also gauging how far the actor was willing to go to look like Freddie Mercury, the iconic rock star he plays in the Queen biopic from Fox, which opens in theaters Nov. 2.

“Some actors love makeup, and some actors are not so keen. He was totally up for everything, and I loved that,” says Sewell, whose credits include “The Theory of Everything,” “The Danish Girl” and “Tomb Raider.”

One of her first priorities was to commission teeth specialist Chris Lyons of Fangs FX to craft prosthetic teeth resembling those of the late singer. Initially, she instructed Lyons to replicate the size of Mercury’s actual teeth, but they overwhelmed Malek’s face. After some experimenting, they found a scaled-down version that worked. “If we had truly done the teeth the size that Freddie had them, I think it would have been distracting,” Sewell says.

While Malek has a strong jawline like Mercury, “the top half of his face isn’t very Freddie,” Sewell explains. “Rami’s eyes are much bigger than Freddie’s, a little wider apart, and his nose isn’t quite the same shape.”

Sewell also worked with FX pro Mark Coulier to create an artificial nose to enhance Malek’s transformation. “The prosthetic nose actually pulled Rami’s eyes together, and then I put a lot of makeup in the corners of his eyes, which also helped bring his eyes in,” she says.

Each morning it took about two hours to do the makeup, apply the prosthetic nose and fit Malek’s wigs, made by hairpiece specialist Alex Rouse. “Even when the character has the short hair, it was a wig,” Sewell says. “I’m sure everybody thought it was Rami’s own hair, but it was a wig, because he turned up with ‘Mr. Robot’ hair,” she adds, referring to the USA Network series in which Malek continues to star.

“We were thrown in the deep end,” Sewell says of the sink-or-swim shoot, pointing out that Queen’s famous 1985 Live Aid concert performance was the first part of the film to be shot, and she was concerned with how Malek’s fake mustache was going to hold up when he was singing and sweating. “Every time they said cut, I would run in to check it,” she says. “It really expands.”

Thankfully, the mustache — actually, mustaches, because Sewell had “loads of them made, and I would clean and tone them every night,” she says — held up well.

While Sewell used her skills to transform Malek’s appearance, she credits him with selling the performance by finding Mercury’s essence. “You can cover people in prosthetics, but I don’t think that’s what it’s about. You need to find the right actor, and it’s the actor who takes it further. The moment Rami stepped onstage [at the Live Aid re-creation] I just thought, ‘Oh, God, he’s going to carry it; this is going to work. This is so going to work!”

More Artisans

  • The Old Man and the Gun

    Ohio’s Midwest Locations and Flexible Tax Credit Lure Producers

    With its small towns, rolling farmlands and industrial cities, Ohio embodies the American Midwest. Other location lures for filmmakers include the shore along Lake Erie, the campus of Ohio State University, the striking skyline of Cincinnati and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. The Buckeye State also provides producers with a 30% [...]

  • Nancy Schreiber Mapplethorpe Cinematographer

    DP Nancy Schreiber Captures Life of Artist Robert Mapplethorpe in Grimy Gotham

    Don’t tell cinematographer Nancy Schreiber that she’s having a renaissance. That would imply there’ve been slumps in her long career, and she won’t have any of that, even if for a time she was taking smaller jobs as the gaps widened between larger gigs. “It’s never been about the money, for me,” says Schreiber over [...]

  • What Ariana Grande, Lady Gaga Share:

    LeRoy Bennett Keeps Top Acts Like Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande in the Spotlight

    You might say that LeRoy Bennett is a shining light among lighting and production designers for pop music. Doing double duty creating both touring sets and their illumination, he started out with a 14-year run as Prince’s collaborator, went on to work with Nine Inch Nails and Madonna and has counted Beyoncé’s and Bruno Mars’ [...]

  • Us Movie

    How 'Us' Pulled Off Subtle Differences in Costumes, Design, Music for Parallel Characters

    “Us,” Jordan Peele’s second outing as a director, following his 2017 critical and box office success “Get Out,” revisits similar psychological horror-thriller territory. But this time the stakes are, well, doubled.  In the new film, to be released by Universal on March 21, Adelaide Wilson, played by Lupita Nyong’o, returns to her childhood beachside home [...]

  • Ben Davis Cinematographer Captain Marvel Brie

    Cinematographer Ben Davis Helps Create the Look of the Marvel Cinematic Universe

    Since 2008’s “Iron Man,” the Marvel cinematic universe has continued expanding, now numbering more than 20 films. Along the way, the company has developed a reputation for solid technology choices with the large-format ARRI Alexa 65 camera and the Codex Vault 65 on-set media management system as cornerstones of its workflow. Earlier in the series, [...]

  • Costume Designer Betty Pecha Madden on

    Betty Pecha Madden Looks Back on Four Decades of Costume Design

    Dressing dolls as a child at her parents’ Wisconsin farm, future costume designer Betty Pecha Madden created stories using clothes. By age 17, her interest in costuming having grown serious via high school plays, she left home upon graduation and went to Chicago to find work in the industry. Madden clothed rock groups and college [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content