Riz Ahmed first Muslim nominated for lead actor Oscar

Riz Ahmed becomes first Muslim nominated for lead actor Oscar
2 min read
16 March, 2021
Riz Ahmed plays a rock drummer who loses his hearing in the movie Sound of Metal.
Riz Ahmed became the first Muslim to bag a nomination for a lead role [Getty]
British actor and musician Riz Ahmed became the first Muslim to bag a nomination for the Academy Award's Best Actor category on Monday.

The 38-year-old actor of Pakistani origins scored the Oscar nomination for his role as a rock drummer who loses his hearing in the film 'Sound of Metal'.

Ahmed previously broke barriers at the Emmys in 2017 for his role in 'The Night Of', becoming the first Muslim and Asian actor to win in a lead acting category.

"When you hear your own name, it’s a weird feeling, I just quietly gave thanks and felt some gratitude," Ahmed said after his nomination.

"Everybody on this film was doing it because they wanted to push themselves and go further than they have before. This was all of us trying to see how far could we go."

Despite years of #OscarsSoWhite criticism, Monday's nominations saw multiple diversity landmarks set.

Nine of the 20 acting nominees were people of colour, including a posthumous Best Actor nomination for Chadwick Boseman for 'Ma Rainey's Black Bottom', as well as nods for Steven Yeun for 'Minari', Viola Davis for 'Ma Rainey's Black Bottom' and Andra Day for 'The United States vs Billie Holiday'.

Tunisia also landed its first ever Oscars pick with 'The Man Who Sold His Skin', at a relatively economical seventh time of trying.

In 2017, Mahershala Ali became the first Muslim actor to win an Oscar, winning the Best Supporting Actor category for 'Moonlight'. He won the prize again in 2019 for his role in 'Green Book'.

Academy president David Rubin announced that the Oscars night, which will be held on 25 April, will be split between Hollywood's Dolby Theatre - and a train station.

Details are still thin on the ground but the enormous Union Station in downtown Los Angeles will allow for plenty of social distancing among stars, seeming to indicate a more "in-person" approach to the prize-giving ceremony.

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