Oscar-winning actor Rami Malek, 38, says he was careful to make sure Safin, the villain he portrays in the upcoming Bond film, was ambiguous when it came to descent.
Malek, who was born in California to Egyptian immigrant parents, will play the villainous character in 007's 25th film, due to be released in April. He previously revealed he was reticent to take on the role, concerned it would end up being a caricature of a Middle Eastern terrorist due to his heritage. Director Cary Fukunaga, however, assured him that would not be the case, with Malek joining the cast alongside fellow 007 newcomer Lashana Lynch.
The actor teamed up with the same vocal coach he worked with on Bohemian Rhapsody, who helped Malek echo Freddie Mercury's distinctive drawl for the biopic. The result is a rather ambiguous accent, which Malek adds was a conscious decision. "I wanted to create something that we couldn't quite peg from any particular part of the world," he told Empire.
He netted his first Oscar last year for his portrayal of late Queen frontman Freddie Mercury – and the actor says he was also influenced by the Tanzanian-born musician's originality when taking on the role of villainous Safin in the upcoming James Bond film, No Time to Die.
For the part, Malek has revealed he was keen not to emulate previous Bond adversaries, instead carving out his own path as the often-masked Safin.
"If I went in there and tried to make a carbon copy of someone, what joy or fun would that be for anybody? I guess that may be a lesson I learned from Mr Mercury," the actor told the latest issue of Empire Magazine. "If it's not original, then why bother?"
The role has been described by 007 producer Barbara Broccoli as a true "super-villain", with the filmmaker telling the magazine Safin "is the one that really gets under Bond’s skin ... he’s a nasty piece of work".
Malek, the first Best Actor Oscar winner of Arab heritage, said he made efforts to ensure the character was an unsettling presence in the action film.
“I’ve pocketed some things from some of my favourites. But I tried to every day imbue this character with something I thought made sense for the character, but might also at the same time be shocking and unnerving," he said.
No Time to Die is due to be released on Thursday, April 2.