Riz Ahmed Feels Blessed to Be First Muslim Nominated for Best Actor at 2021 Oscars


The ‘Sound of Metal’ actor is overjoyed after he was announced as one of the contenders for the prestigious Best Actor title at the upcoming 93rd annual Academy Awards.

British star Riz Ahmed has made Oscars history as the first Muslim and first person of Pakistani descent to be recognised in the Best Actor category for his role in “Sound of Metal“.

The first-time nominee is humbled by the honour, and is proud to represent people of colour on Hollywood’s big night.

Ahmed, who hails from Wembley, just outside of London, tells Deadline, “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.”

“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.”

He is part of the most diverse group of acting nominees to ever be celebrated by officials at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, with nine actors of colour in the running for top prizes this year (21), and Ahmed is thrilled to see so many different kinds of stories being accepted into mainstream culture and awarded with nods.

“It’s why we do it, to stretch our hearts and stretch our minds, and in the process stretch culture,” he reflected of the diverse Oscars field.

“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.”

And Ahmed is particularly pleased to be nominated for filmmaker Darius Marder‘s “Sound of Metal”, in which he plays a drummer who has to adjust to a new way of life after losing his hearing.

“It feels like a privilege to be part of this team,” he smiled. “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, who spent 13 years trying to get this film made; for (co-star and Best Supporting Actor nominee) 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 labour of love.”

In addition to Ahmed’s groundbreaking nomination, “Minari” star Steven Yeun became the first Asian-American ever to be shortlisted for Best Actor while his co-star Yuh-Jung Youn was hailed as the first Korean person to land an acting Oscar nod, and “Nomadland” filmmaker Chloe Zhao made further history as the first woman of colour to be recognised in the Best Director category.

The winners will be revealed when the 93rd Academy Awards take place in Los Angeles on 25 April.

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