Riz Ahmed made history as the first Muslim nominated for the Oscar for best actor with the recognition for his role in “Sound of Metal.”
Actor Mahershala Ali became the first Muslim actor to win an Oscar when he took home the statuette for supporting actor for “Moonlight” in 2017 and won the same prize in 2019 for “Green Book.”
Ahmed previously was the first Muslim, and first Asian, to win a lead acting Emmy in 2017 when he picked up the prize for lead actor in a limited series or movie for “The Night of.” The 38-year-old British Pakistani actor also has been seen in films such as “Rogue One,” “Venom,” “The Sisters Brothers,” “Nightcrawler,” “Four Lions” and the recent “Mogul Mowgli,” which he also co-wrote. He has a career as a rapper and musician and in 2020 released the album “The Long Goodbye.”
In “Sound of Metal,” Ahmed plays Ruben, a rock-and-roll drummer and recovering addict whose life is sent into a tailspin when he loses his hearing. For the role, Ahmed has been nominated for the Golden Globe, SAG Award, Spirit Award and BAFTA for lead actor. He won the Gotham Award and numerous critics prizes.
Directed by Darius Marder, the film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2019, where it was picked up for distribution by Amazon Studios for release in November 2020.
Ahmed spent months preparing for the role, learning drumming and American Sign Language and attending Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings. In a recent interview with the LA Times, Ahmed said, “When you learn things that take you away from yourself and your comfort zone — and I mean truly learn them — what it does is bring you home, back to yourself. As an actor, you start off at this place of separation, and by the end, it’s crazy, but you want to grab someone and tell them, ‘This is me!’
“And you don’t need to be an actor to go on that journey. People and interests find you in life so you can work through certain issues. There are no coincidences. Everything happens for a reason. You just need to discover what that reason is. Ruben’s journey in ‘Sound of Metal’ became my journey too. And it absolutely changed my life.”