Riz Ahmed has become the first Muslim to be nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role by the Academy for Sound of Metal. The UK-born actor is also known for his performances in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Nightcrawler and Venom.
“If there’s a way in which people can find themselves in this moment, and can feel inspired and connected on a deeper level, I’m all for it,” said Ahmed. “Whether they see me as the first British Pakistani, or the first guy from Wembley, you know, there’s so many ways to view it. But as long as it feels like an opportunity for more people than ever before to really connect and feel included in this moment, that’s a blessing.”
The Oscars recent efforts to diversify seem to have paid off, with Ahmed being one of nine actors of color nominated this year. The 38-year-old actor says that his nomination is more than just a statement.
“It’s why we do it, to stretch our hearts and stretch our minds, and in the process stretch culture,” he says. “We should stretch culture so that it’s big enough and wide enough and expansive enough so that there’s space for all of us to find ourselves in it, to feel that we belong and that we’re included, and that we matter. These changes aren’t just something that’s good politically or socially. It’s something which allows stories and storytelling to get back to its original intention, which is to embrace all of us.”
Sound of Metal earned 6 nominations in total, including nominations for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor and Best Original Screenplay. In the film, Ahmed plays a metal drummer who begins to lose his hearing and has to find purpose in his new reality.
“It feels like a privilege to be part of this team,” Ahmed said. “It was a special project where everyone got together, there were no egos, and it was all about us pulling toward this larger vision. We made the film unsure whether anyone would see it, really, so for us to come out with six nominations is just the most beautiful feeling. For [Darius Marder], who spent 13 years trying to get this film made; for Paul Raci, who spent 35 years sitting on this tremendous talent and perhaps not being given the platform to really express it; and for the entire team. I know it’s a cliche but it was truly a labor of love.”