Riz Ahmed learned 'true meaning of listening' from new movie

  • Bang Showbiz
  • 19 March 2021
Riz Ahmed

Riz Ahmed

Riz Ahmed doesn't think deafness is a "disability" and learned "the true meaning of listening" after making 'Sound of Metal'

Riz Ahmed learned "the true meaning of listening" after making 'Sound of Metal'.

The 38-year-old actor portrays drummer Ruben Stone, who gradually realises his profession and drug addiction have led to him losing his hearing, in the movie and to prepare for the role he learned to play the drums, had a personal trainer to help "give [him] a body", attended addiction recovery meetings, and spent two hours a day learning American Sign Language (ASL), with the latter helping him understand the deaf community.

He said: "One of the big takeaways for me, making this film, is that deafness isn't a disability.

"[The deaf community has] a rich and vibrant culture, from which many people could learn. [It taught me the] true meaning of listening.

"Listening isn't something you just do with your ears. It's something your whole body pays attention to."

And Riz's ASL instructor told him that "deaf people will say hearing people are repressed, because we hide behind words."

One of the toughest parts of making the movie for Riz was having audio blockers placed into his ear canals.

He told the Daily Mail newspaper columnist Baz Bamigboye: "They would activate them, so I couldn't hear anything — including the sound of my own voice. And that is disorienting. But it gets you listening with your body."

And in order to immerse the viewer in the experience, after every take, sound designer Nicolas Becker made sure he got as close to Riz as possible.

The actor explained: "[He would] put a microphone against my chest, and record my heartbeat; or ask me to lick my lips, or swallow, or even blink — so the entire soundscape places you inside Ruben's experience."

Earlier this week, Riz was nominated for the Best Actor Oscar and though he admitted he is "pleased personally" because "it's an amazing thing" to be nominated, he'd rather praise went to the movie – which received six nods, including one for the coveted Best Picture accolade – itself, particularly because it came close to not being made at all.

He said: "t's miraculous it got made, man.

"We did lose all our financing the night before the shoot started. It was an against-the-odds kind of tale."

Riz had been "looking for a challenge" when he was offered the role of Ruben after making big budget movies such as 'Rogue One: A Star Wars Story' and 'Jason Bourne' left him feeling "restless".

He said: "I felt like I'd gotten used to a certain way of working, and I needed to pull the carpet from under myself again.

"When you're not fully in control, when you're finding your feet, that's when you dance the best. When you're almost falling over."

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