SAG Awards nominee profile: Riz Ahmed (‘Sound of Metal’) snags his first film nomination

Riz Ahmed earned a nomination from the Screen Actors Guild for his performance in “Sound of Metal.” In the Amazon film, Ahmed plays Ruben, a recovering drug addict who plays drums in a heavy metal band until one day he loses his hearing. The film tracks his pathway to acceptance as he learns American Sign Language while struggling to leave behind the life he had before. It is his first SAG nomination for a film but his second overall, having previously earned a bid for “The Night Of,” which would later net him an Emmy. Could Ahmed make up for his previous SAG loss with a win this year?

Ahmed’s rival Best Actor nominees are: Chadwick Boseman (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”), Anthony Hopkins (“The Father”), Gary Oldman (“Mank”) and Steven Yeun (“Minari”). Boseman has three concurrent nominations this year and a previous win as part of the ensemble for “Black Panther,” Hopkins has six previous bids and Oldman has two earlier nominations including a win for “Darkest Hour.” This is Yeun’s first time being nominated and he is also competing in the ensemble category as a member of the “Minari” cast.

SEE Full list of SAG Awards nominations

“Sound of Metal” does not have any other nominations at the SAG Awards, as was the case at the recent Golden Globes. Ahmed lost there to Boseman. But Ahmed’s performance is the kind that actors love. Between learning the drums and ASL and speaking with an American accent, there was a great level of difficulty involved in preparing for the role, but it does not feel forced in the film itself. While Ruben has explosive moments at times, Ahmed plays the character with a great deal of subtlety and realism. It’s easy to see where Ahmed’s fellow actors might be impressed with the sheer level of skill on display in his performance.

With an additional nomination at the Critics Choice Awards, Ahmed is expected to earn his first Oscar nomination this month. Doing so would make him the first actor of Pakistani descent to land a Best Actor bid at the Oscars and only the third actor of Asian descent, following Ben Kingsley and Yul Brynner. History would further be made if Yeun, his fellow SAG nominee, also made it into the Best Actor lineup, becoming the first Asian-American to do so.

This article is a part of Gold Derby’s “SAG Awards nominee profile” series spotlighting the 2021 contenders in film and TV.

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