Oscar nominee profile: Paul Raci (‘Sound of Metal’) offers support to Riz Ahmed

Over the last four decades, Paul Raci has built a reputation as a dependable character actor. His embodiment of a tailor-made role in “Sound of Metal” has brought him a slew of prizes from critics groups, and he now has a shot at Oscar glory. He faces off against Sacha Baron Cohen (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”), Daniel Kaluuya (“Judas and the Black Messiah”), Leslie Odom Jr. (“One Night in Miami”), and LaKeith Stanfield (“Judas and the Black Messiah”) in the race for Best Supporting Actor.

For the first time in over a decade, all five nominees are new to this category. Kaluuya is the only veteran acting nominee, having contended in lead for “Get Out” three years ago.

Darius Marder’s “Sound of Metal” centers on Ruben Stone (Riz Ahmed), a young heavy metal drummer and recovering drug addict who suddenly loses his hearing. Raci plays the role of Joe, the operator of a shelter designed to help people in Stone’s position. As the protagonist navigates and generally fights against his new reality, Joe offers keenly measured doses of stringent support. Raci imbues his character with great wisdom and compassion that never wavers no matter how rarely the two men see eye-to-eye.

SEE 2021 Oscar nominations: Full list of nominees in all 23 categories at the 93rd Academy Awards

Ahmed’s portrayal of the film’s lead has earned him his first Oscar bid as well. He is only the second actor of South Asian descent to ever vie for Best Actor, after two-time contender Ben Kingsley, who triumphed for “Gandhi” in 1983. “Sound of Metal” earned bids in a total of six categories, including Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Film Editing, and Best Sound.

At 73, Raci would be the seventh oldest Best Supporting Actor champ in academy history. The record for this and all other acting categories is held by Christopher Plummer, who was 82 when he won for “Beginners” in 2012. The five supporting men who would potentially stand between Plummer and Raci are: George Burns (80, “The Sunshine Boys,” 1976), Melvyn Douglas (78, “Being There,” 1980), John Gielgud (77, “Arthur,” 1982), Don Ameche (77, “Cocoon,” 1986), and Jack Palance (73, “City Slickers,” 1992). 

This article is a part of Gold Derby’s “Oscar nominee profile” series spotlighting the 2021 contenders.

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