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The 78th Annual Golden Globes Awards nominations are in, and Sound of Metal star Riz Ahmed is up for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama.

Writer-director Darius Marder’s feature debut tells the riveting story of a punk-metal drummer named Ruben who struggles to adapt after suddenly losing his hearing. Ahmed’s performance is being described as nothing less than “gripping,” “extraordinary,” and “a knockout.” 

“It’s a lovely feeling to have people shine a light on work that you feel good about on a project that’s close to your heart more than anything,” the British actor told Deadline. “I hope it brings more and more attention to the film.”

 

Getting Started

Marder told Ahmed he had worked on Sound of Metal for ten years and wanted him to play the starring role. He also added whoever played the role needed to know American Sign Language and how to play the drums.  Although Ahmed rapped on The Hamilton Mixtape (We Get the Job Done)—he definitely was not a drummer. He also certainly didn’t know American Sign Language. 

 Upon accepting the role, Ahmed admits he felt anxious about all the challenges he faced. However, he rolled up his sleeves and got to work.

For seven months, Ahmed’s schedule was broken into two-hour segments, each devoted to honing a different skill. Two hours a day, Ahmed learned American Sign Language. Another two hours were dedicated to drumming lessons. He also worked with a personal trainer and the remaining time was spent with an acting coach. In particular, Ahmed delved deep into his psyche to explore the thought: “What if I suddenly lost my hearing?”

 

The challenge of playing someone who’s rapidly losing their hearing

He explained during an interview with IMDb Toronto:

“Anytime you play a character, you try and draw on episodes in your own life where you feel like the rug’s been pulled out from under you. And there was obviously a lot of going [on] within, and so it was a kind of inward journey that was new for me as an actor. Often, I’ve been asked to step into characters that I craft almost as though they’re kind of masks—I do lots of externally facing research. But with something like this, yes, there was a research element, but it’s just such an intense experience to go through … just look in some pretty dark corners.” 

 

A Little Help from the Cast

The cast consisted of many members of the deaf community.“I think something we’re really proud of in this film is presenting deafness as a culture and as a community and not as a disability,” the 38-year-old actor shared. 

He insists he learned so much from the deaf actors on set. “They taught me what listening truly means—with your whole body. They taught me what communication really means—when you don’t even use your words,” he revealed to Variety.

“I love everyone we made [the film] with. It was very much a family affair. It was a small, independent film. To see the way it landed and resonated with people is beautiful, so I feel overjoyed. I hope people get to see the film for the film itself. The story carries quite a timely message for us right now.”

Ahmed was born in Wembley to Pakistani parents who moved to the UK in the 1970s. His breakout role was in Nightcrawler as Rick, a jittery sidekick of Jake Gyllenhaal’s character, the thief Lou Bloom. In recent years, Ahmed portrayed Carlton Drake in Venom; Aaron Kalloor, CEO of a social media enterprise in the action film Jason Bourne; and played Bodhi Rook in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. He also starred in HBO’s critically lauded crime drama The Night Of, a performance for which he received a Golden Globe nomination. 

On February 28th at the Golden Globes, Ahmed’s Sound of Metal performance will be competing among many greats. Nominations include Chadwick Boseman in Black Bottom, Anthony Hopkins in The Father, Gary Oldman in Mank, and Tahar Rahim in The Mauritanian.

 

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