Riz Ahmed on his casting as a deaf man in Oscar-nominated Sound Of Metal

Riz Ahmed (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
Riz Ahmed (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

By: Mohnish Singh

Darius Marder’s Sound Of Metal, which had its world premiere in September 2019 at the Toronto Film Festival, is in the running for six Academy Awards, including Best Actor for British-Pakistani actor Riz Ahmed.

The 38-year-old actor plays a heavy metal drummer who must learn how to adjust to a completely different life when he begins to lose his hearing in the critically acclaimed American drama film.

Ahmed has said he is “certainly not” representing the deaf community in his Oscar-nominated role.

He told the PA news agency: “I’m certainly not representing the deaf community, or representing the deaf experience. I question whether anyone can represent the deaf experience. It’s one that’s very rich and has multifaceted diversity and has many different experiences within it. I think the deaf community and deaf characters represent themselves in the film as individuals, and do so authentically – often with improvisation. They bring a lot of things to the table and to the screen that we actually haven’t seen before on screen. So, I’m privileged and proud to be a part of that. But that’s something that deaf people do for themselves. They don’t need me, as a hearing person, to represent them. I couldn’t, if I tried.

Riz Ahmed, whose Oscar nominations comes after contending for the four major precursors, Golden Globes, Critics Choice, SAG and BAFTA, added that director Darius Marder wanted to cast an actor who comes from hearing culture in the lead role of Ruben Stone because that is the experience of the character.

“My character is a hearing character, he’s a character from hearing culture, and he experiences deaf culture for the first time in the film. And so, in order to portray that authentically, Darius wanted to cast a hearing actor who’s from hearing culture, who is experiencing deaf culture for the first time, just in the same way as Ruben is. Everyone in the film who’s from hearing culture is played by someone from hearing culture, and everyone in the film from deaf culture is played by someone from deaf culture. So, the film is actually incredibly authentic in that sense and was trying to portray that blending of worlds that Ruben experiences authentically by having someone like me play him,” he said.

Ahmed, who is also a rapper known by his stage name Riz MC, learned to play the drums and speak American Sign Language for the role and said the experience of spending long periods of time in silence inspired his performance.

Sound Of Metal is now arriving in the UK via Amazon Prime Video from 12th April and in cinemas from 17th May.

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