Riz Ahmed Is First Muslim To Receive Oscar Nomination For Best Actor

The British Pakistani actor is honored for his performance in "Sound of Metal," in which he plays a drummer and recovering addict who loses his hearing.

Riz Ahmed is making history once again.

The actor, who was raised in England and is of Pakistani heritage, on Monday became the first Muslim to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. Along with “Minari” star Steven Yeun, he’s one of the first two Asians to be nominated in the same catgory.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is recognizing Ahmed for his performance in “Sound of Metal,” released last fall. He stars as Ruben Stone, a punk drummer and recovering addict who abruptly loses his hearing. The role required him to spend seven months learning to play the drums and use American sign language.

In an email statement, Ahmed thanked “mentors in the drumming, addiction recovery, and D/deaf communities” for helping to guide his performance. The movie, he said, is “about how a health crisis can cut you off from your life and loved ones, and force you to grow in unexpected ways.”

“In a challenging year for so many, I hope this story can inspire us to forge new and deeper connections with ourselves and others,” he added.

If Ahmed wins, he’ll follow Mahershala Ali, who in 2017 became the first Muslim actor to win an Oscar for “Moonlight,” for which he received Best Supporting Actor. Two years later, Ali won in the same category for “Green Book.”

Ahmed himself made history in 2017 as the first Muslim man to win an Emmy for his performance in HBO’s “The Night Of.” He was also the first South Asian man to win an Emmy in an acting category in general. Before that, Archie Panjabi won Outstanding Supporting Actress for her performance on “The Good Wife” in 2010.

Directed by Darius Marder, “Sound of Metal” received a total of six Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Supporting Actor for Paul Raci. In addition to the Best Actor nod, Ahmed received nominations at the Golden Globes, the Film Independent Spirit Awards, and the Screen Actors Guild Awards.


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