Riz Ahmed: 'Sound Of Metal' prep was a 'seven month sprint' (exclusive)
Watch Riz Ahmed talk to Yahoo about his Oscar-nominated turn in Sound of Metal
Rogue One star Riz Ahmed is, as they say, having a moment. After last year’s critically acclaimed Mogul Mowgli, the highest profile role of his career is about to hit Prime Video, and then UK cinemas in May.
In Sound Of Metal, he plays a punk metal drummer who has to deal with a sudden, life changing condition. And getting ready for the part meant cramming new skills and cultures into just a handful of months.
In the critically-acclaimed film which has earned Ahmed his first ever Oscar nomination, his character becomes profoundly deaf with no warning, an event which totally changes his life, both professionally and personally.
Talking to Yahoo Movies UK, Ahmed described the role as 'a great opportunity to learn about some cultures I didn’t know much about, learn some new skills and push myself.'
Read more: 'Sound of Metal' is a 'giant leap forward' for depiction of hearing loss
He devoted seven months — in his own words 'a short sprint' — to preparing for the four week shoot.
For starters, he needed to get to grips with playing the drums. “I learned every day with my teacher, Guy Licata, for seven months,” he recalls.
“And another element was learning American Sign Language, which I learnt with my instructor, Jeremy Lee Stone. He ends up in the film because I named my character Ruben Stone after him.
“Then there was talking to people in the deaf community, communicating with them, immersing myself in their culture by going to deaf poetry slams, going to people’s weddings and hanging out.”
He admits that now his sign language isn’t as fluent as it was. “With a language you have to keep up the practice, and the pandemic has made that harder,” he said. “It’s the same with the drums. I don’t own a drum kit, but my neighbours are probably happy about that!”
The actor also went through something of a physical transformation, involving a strict regime designed to give him a more muscular frame. What he didn’t anticipate was that his trainer, Leighton Grant III, would also have a personal connection to the film’s story.
Watch a trailer for Sound of Metal
“He was going through hearing loss himself, but I didn’t know that when we started working together,” he explained.
“After about six weeks, he just mentioned he had to adjust his hearing aids and I hadn’t even discussed with him what the film was about.”
After varied roles in the likes of Nightcrawler (2014) alongside Jake Gyllenhaal, The Sisters Brothers (2018) with Joaquin Phoenix and co-starring with Tom Hardy in Venom (2018), his performance in Sound Of Metal has turned Ahmed into a major award contender.
Read more: Riz Ahmed missed Star Wars Celebration after Homeland Security stopped him
He’s been nominated for Best Actor at both the BAFTAs and the Oscars, while the film itself has nods in a further three BAFTA categories and five more at the Oscars, including Best Picture.
It co-stars Olivia Cooke and Paul Raci, who is nominated in the Best Supporting Actor category at both the Oscars and the BAFTAs.
Sound of Metal is available on Amazon Prime Video from12 April and released in cinemas from 17 May.