Riz Ahmed on his most iconic film scenes: “Jake Gyllenhaal was such a weirdo!”

For our 'Absolute Scenes' interview, the 'Sound Of Metal' star discusses his greatest ever movie moments

‘Encounter’

The scene: In his new sci-fi thriller, young father Malik (who believes the world is in danger from aliens) scolds his son about he walks off in a supermarket. Watch it on Amazon Prime Video from this Friday (December 3)

“These are two amazing young actors – Aditya Geddada, who plays Bobby, and Lucian-River Chauhan, who plays Jay – they were taking me to school every day. When you work with young actors they bring such honesty and authenticity to everything it keeps you honest. The cool thing about Aditya in the scene is that he didn’t care what the script was. He just did his own thing, you know. He would make things up and if you weren’t really scaring him he wasn’t gonna act scared. If you were boring him, he would yawn in your face. It was like a learning experience for me.”

Riz Ahmed
Riz Ahmed in ‘Encounter’. CREDIT: Amazon Prime Video

‘Sound Of Metal’

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The scene: Heavy metal drummer Ruben storms out of a gig, finally admitting to his girlfriend that he has hearing loss.

“We used varying different techniques to simulate the deafness – and in this sequence I’m wearing audio blockers deep inside my ear canal. We took hearing aids and repurposed them to emit a white noise. You can’t even hear the sound of your own voice. It was quite a visceral ,intense experience actually because Darius Marder, the writer-director, would control the level of white noise. We’d be doing a scene and I’d be talking to someone and all of a sudden it would kick in. There’s that sense of: ‘Hang on a minute, what’s going on – where am I?’ It’s something spontaneous that you’re capturing on screen.”

‘Nightcrawler’

The scene: A bizarre job interview, in which conman Lou (Jake Gyllenhaal) offers Rick (Ahmed) an undefined, unpaid position.

“Man, I’ve had some bad auditions. So that’s always an inspiration when doing a job interview [scene like this]. You don’t wanna be too desperate but you don’t wanna be too cold. It’s a very self-conscious thing. So there’s always that to draw on but to be honest, Jake Gyllenhaal was such a weirdo (in the best way) [while] shooting this film. I remember he was starving himself to achieve the effect of this bottomless hunger that the character had. I was just watching him transform in front of my eyes. It was just unsettling to be around him… People mention this scene and I’m just like: ‘Dude, I was just there while this weirdo was doing his thing and I was just reacting like you are!'”

Nightcrawler
‘Nightcrawler’ sees Riz Ahmed play Rick, who ends up as assistant to Jake Gyllenhaal’s conman Lou Bloom. CREDIT: Alamy

‘Four Lions’

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The scene: Incompetent terrorist Faisal has just accidentally blown himself up – Omar (Ahmed) and his accomplices sift through their friend’s remains.

“What’s interesting behind this whole sequence is: we shot, obviously, the Faisal blowing himself up by mistake scene and we weren’t meant to do that next sequence where I come in and start shouting at everyone for another week. And then on the day, as it sometimes is with low-budget filmmaking, it was: ‘Right, things have moved around. We might lose next week’s location so we have to do that scene now. Could you just get ready in two minutes?’ And actually that can sometimes really help you. You don’t have the chance to overthink it. So what you actually had was something quite frenetic because we’re all like: ‘Can we get this scene right? Can we do it?’ And it ends up infusing the scene with that kind of intense energy.

“It’s got some of my favourite lines in it, man. ‘Jump off the tree and blow up the internet arse-first.’ ‘Is he a martyr or a jalfrezi?’ It’s just got killer line after killer line. But at the time you’re just trying to get through the scene and you watch it back and you’re like: ‘How did we keep a straight face?’ and then you remember: ‘Oh yeah, we didn’t for nine takes out of 10.'”

Four Lions
Faisal comes to a sticky end in satire ‘Four Lions. CREDIT: Alamy

‘Venom’

The scene: Unhinged baddie Carlton Drake (Ahmed) bonds himself with a symbiote alien and goes on the rampage.

“it was a new experience for me because you do the voice but then they animate it all. This whole sequence of Riot suddenly smashing up the control room and deciding to go full-blown nutter was a lot of fun. Just to unleash that kind of aggression. But they don’t let you do all of the fight sequences. They map that in animation so you’re almost like one of the fans. I’m waiting to see what they’ve animated. They give you a rough idea of what the fight sequences are gonna be like. Then they show you pictures and stuff but when you go in to voice the character, you’re going in after they’ve done the animation. In a way it takes the pressure off. You don’t have to do all that crazy acrobatic fight stuff.”

‘The Long Goodbye’

The scene: A devastating far right attack results in a tragic loss, before our protagonist gives a vital closing speech.

“This was on the shortest day of the year in terms of daylight and I remember when we shot that final bit we had two takes. So we shot the first take and I was stood in the wrong position, the light wasn’t on me. So we basically only had one take – and sometimes that can really focus you. When you know you’ve only got one crack at it. You’re at the mercy of circumstance, so in a way you have to surrender to it. Then you get into a flow and things start happening. It ended up being a solid take that we could use. That’s not an argument for always working under crazily difficult conditions, but sometimes having those restrictions, having that pressure, can really focus everyone.”

‘Encounter’ streams on Amazon Prime Video from December 3

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