Early one Sunday evening I’m on the phone from Singapore to Los Angeles, and from the other end, the multiple-award-winning actor Rami Malek is talking about watches in what can only be described as a mesmeric drawl. “I’ve always appreciated them,” he says, pausing several times to choose the best words to convey his response. “They’re beautifully historic and… they can just be… a really personal expression of something that’s time-honoured.” At times through the interview, I fear the line has dropped out, such is vocal intonation of Malek. I knew from seeing him interviewed on television that Malek was the cerebral sort, I just hadn’t expected one of the biggest film stars of our time to be so considerate.
The past few years have been meteoric for Malek. The son of Egyptian immigrant parents, Malek was born and raised in California, and after studying theatre in college, moved to New York City, where he found his way into a theatrical circle. In his early years after graduation, having returned home to his parents, he struggled to break through, though small roles, such as those in TV sitcom Gilmore Girls and comedy series The War at Home, provided a foundation for larger supporting roles, including an Egyptian vampire in The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2. It was Mr. Robot, however, that put Malek on the map, with Entertainment Weekly calling his performance the best reason to watch the show.
Though it has been indefinitely delayed—latest news reports are stating April as the intended release date—Malek will star in the forthcoming 007 film, No Time to Die, the 25the instalment in the iconic British spy series and the last starring Daniel Craig as its moody lead, James Bond. Like both the trailer and other cast and crew interviews, Malek won’t give much away about the plotline, but what we know is this: he plays Bond’s adversary, Safin, and a worthy one at that, with producer Barbara Broccoli describing Malek’s character as “the one that really gets under [his] skin. He’s a nasty piece of work.” Director Cary Fukunaga describes the character as “more dangerous than anyone he’s ever encountered”.
“I base a lot of my choices on the director and the writing, because [a character] is something that has to be very well written."
“I base a lot of my choices on the director and the writing, because [a character] is something that has to be very well written,” explains the actor of being drawn to the role. “I know almost immediately if it’s something I would like to consider or not—it’s instinctive—and usually that has a lot to do with it being a very complex human being struggling through some fairly unusual circumstances.” Malek shies away from delving too far into his creative process, noting: “Every character is different, and because it’s such a personal experience that’s one aspect I don’t like giving away. There is something quite sacred about the prep and research.”
Though its release date remains a mystery with thanks to the unpredictability of the global pandemic, Malek’s of the belief that we have something to look forward to when it does eventually open in theatres. “Being the 25th [Bond] film makes this extra special, and hopefully it can be a galvanising moment for audiences when we do get to see it,” he says. “I’ll tell you one thing that really stands out about this film, though, and that’s the scale and the magnitude of the production. It’s thrilling and it’s unique.” And he means for himself as much as for the audience. “Getting to film on the 007 stage with Mr Daniel Craig is an experience I won’t be forgetting, and he was classy enough to be considerate and warm throughout. He appreciated that I was coming into such a foreign situation and that it would take a second for me to get my sea legs.”
Malek’s being incredibly humble, of course. It was just last year, after all, that he won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his brilliant turn as Freddie Mercury in the biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, becoming the first actor of Egyptian heritage to win that Oscar. The golden statuette he can add to several Golden Globes, Emmy, Screen Actor Guild and BAFTA Awards for both the Mercury role and Mr Robot, the techno-thriller American television series in which he plays a network engineer and vigilante hacker. “The way I look at these awards is that it’s a profound honour to earn the respect of your colleagues,” he says with characteristic grace. “That’s my view.”
Perhaps because of his private nature—Malek has rather famously given little away about himself, giving few interviews and shunning social media—the actor is selective about the brands he associates himself with. To date, he’s appeared in campaigns for Dior Homme (2017), Mandarin Oriental (2019) and Saint Laurent (2020), which makes it all the more special that he was recently unveiled as one of the five brand ambassadors for Cartier’s Pasha de Cartier collection. Featuring in the campaign alongside a diverse cast comprising Willow Smith, Maisie Williams, Troye Sivan and Jackson Wang, the group celebrates the new and improved re-edition of Cartier’s iconic timepiece.
“It’s distinct and it’s beautiful. It is elegant, but the [new] Pasha offers a modern take. The extraverted design is very special, very cool.”
Originally created in 1985, the Pasha de Cartier was an instant cult favourite. Its name pays homage to Pasha El Glaoui of Marrakesh and you could always recognise it, thanks to the unique screw-down crown cover. Watch connoisseurs also remember it fondly as one of the earliest water-resistant timepieces. As Malek says, “It’s distinct and it’s beautiful. It is elegant, but the [new] Pasha offers a modern take. The extraverted design is very special, very cool.”
Malek’s association with Cartier isn’t exactly new, having worn the brand’s timepieces to several events in recent years, including this year’s Academy Awards back in February. “When you wear something for those significant moments in your life you develop a great appreciation for the brand behind it,” he says, adding that it’s the individuals behind something—whether a film or a brand like Cartier—that add to the experience. “I really recognise the fact that everyone at Cartier is working to create something that will hold up to their rigorous standard of excellence—for me, I could just tell that everyone had this commitment to craftsmanship. It’s a pretty stellar combination when you’ve got everyone working as a team behind the scenes.”
On the surface, modelling a timepiece and acting as villains and rock stars don’t have much in common. Yet Malek drew on the similarities in the creative process to produce something special for Cartier. “You’re working with an exceptional photographer and creative director, an extraordinary [director of photography]… everyone is at the top of their game, so in a sense when you’re making a short film and producing these images [for Cartier] it does feel like you’re on a film set. But hopefully it’s less about me and more about reflecting what the Pasha de Cartier stands for.”
MAGIC MADE MODERN
Here are four ways the 2020 re-edition of the Pasha de Cartier has evolved from its original 1985 design.
Hidden under the crown cover and fitted with a blue spinel or sapphire.
A VISIBLE MOMENT
The intricate craftsmanship of the piece is exposed via a transparent caseback.
Initials can be engraved to personalise the timepiece.
Thanks to an adaptation of Cartier’s “quickswitch” system, you can change your style with your mood, opting between leather and steel.