Malek, receiving the best actor trophy Sunday for his portrayal of the late Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, called it a “monumental moment.” He thanked members of the band in attendance.
“I may not have been the obvious choice, but I guess it worked out,” Malek said. “Thank you, Queen, thank you, guys, for allowing me to be the tiniest part of your phenomenal, extraordinary legacy. I am forever in your debt.”
Malek speculated about what he would have made of the honor as a child.
“I think his curly haired mind would have been blown,” he said. “That kid was struggling with his identity, trying to figure himself out.”
He lauded “Bohemian Rhapsody” for telling the story of a gay man and an immigrant who lived his life as “unapologetically himself.”
Mercury, who was born in Zanzibar to parents from India, moved to England with his family as a teenager.
Malek noted that he himself is the son of immigrants, from Egypt, and a first-generation American. He gave a shout-out to his mother — “I love you, lady” — and regretted that his father was not alive.
“My dad didn’t get to see me do any of this, but I think he’s looking down on me right now,” said Malek, who gained attention in the TV series “Mr. Robot.”
The actor had a brief scare on his big night, taking a fall in the theater after he accepted his trophy. He was checked by medical staff and appeared uninjured when he came backstage to talk to reporters.
He was asked about what the role meant, especially on an Oscar night that celebrated diversity in movies ranging from “Roma” to “Black Panther.”
“I grew up in a world where I never thought I was going to I was going to play the lead on ‘Mr. Robot’ because I never saw anyone in a lead role that looked like me,” Malek said. “I never thought I could play Freddie Mercury until I realized his (birth) name was Farrokh Bulsara.”
He lauded Mercury for his ability to use his personal struggle to reach others and convey an important message: “We are all human beings and, forgive me for this, collectively we are the champions.”
Growing emotional when he called the award “beyond any expectation” that he or his family could have had, he said it was proof that “anything is possible.”
Best known for his award-winning role as a disturbed hacker in TV’s “Mr. Robot,” Malek was the front-runner coming into the Oscars, having collected an armful of awards including Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild trophies.
He has spoken, briefly but publicly, about the difficulty of working with director Bryan Singer before Singer was fired from “Bohemian Rhapsody.” It was “not pleasant, not pleasant at all,” he said earlier this month at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.
Singer’s firing came for not showing up on set. Shortly afterward, sexual abuse allegations were lodged against the director, which he has categorically denied and weren’t cited as the reason for his being dropped from the film.
The other nominees in the category for best actor were Christian Bale for “Vice”; Bradley Cooper in “A Star Is Born”; Willem Dafoe with “At Eternity’s Gate” and Viggo Mortensen in “Green Book.