Actor Riz Ahmed has had an extraordinary five years. In many respects it’s hard to fathom just how far the British actor of Pakistani descent has come since 2016. He’s been a Jason Bourne bad guy. He also starred opposite Tom Hardy in 2018’s Venom. And Star Wars fans will easily recognize him as “the pilot,” Bodhi Rook, in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. It was his Oscar-nominated performance in Sound of Metal, however, that’s earned the actor a historic first.

During a series of adrenaline-fueled one-night gigs, itinerant punk-metal drummer Ruben (Riz Ahmed) begins to experience intermittent hearing loss. When a specialist tells him his condition will rapidly worsen, he thinks his music career — and with it his life — is over.

~ Official synopsis for Sound of Metal

Riz Ahmed earns historic Oscar nomination

Ahmed delivers an emotional and riveting performance in the film, available on Amazon Prime Video. So much so, in fact, that the actor found himself worthy of an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. The deserving piece of acting marks an extraordinary first for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science. In earning the nomination, Riz Ahmed becomes the first actor of Muslim faith to ever garner Best Actor consideration. That’s a far cry from what the actor experienced in April of 2019.

Riz Ahmed; Rogue One
Image: Lucasfilm Ltd.

Ahmed’s Star Wars co-stars Diego Luna and Alan Tudyk were set to have a big Star Wars Celebration in 2019. It was then that Lucasfilm announced a new series, spun off from the Star-Wars prequel film, featuring Cassian Andor. Riz Ahmed never got the chance to celebrate with them, however. In what by all accounts was an obvious instance xenophobic profiling, Homeland Security detained him before he could ever get to the event.

Breaking barriers

This year’s Oscars has already broken down multiple racial barriers. Riz Ahmed earning an Oscar nomination as a Muslim isn’t the only “first” for the Academy. The Walking Dead’s Steven Yeung also made history. He earned the first-ever Oscar nomination for Best Actor for an Asian-American. If either wins, the win will indeed be historic. We wish both actors the best of luck.