Riz Ahmed is one of the UK’s brightest young talents. Since graduating from Oxford in 2004 he has worked consistently in theatre, film and television, starring in award-winning dramas The Road To Guantanamo, Shifty and Four Lions.
Image: Riz Ahmed © Dillon Bryden
He has just been attending the 62nd Berlin International Film Festival as one of ten promising young actors in Europe chosen by a high-profile jury of film industry professionals as the 2012 SHOOTING STARS, participating in a whirlwind weekend of events including photo-sessions, meetings with casting directors and filmmakers, a workshop with international agents, a press conference and culminating in a glittering award ceremony.
What's your connection to the British Council?
I was in talks with them briefly a few years ago about going out to Pakistan to work with some bands on music out there. But that's about it. So I am grateful for their support with Shooting Stars.
Your current project/s?
My next project is my album MICroscope which will be out in early April. It has a very distinctive sound and style to it, and I'm very proud of it. We also made a video game and a short film to go with the release, which people can play at rizmc.com/lab. Around the same time Black Gold and Trishna will be released, which are two very different projects. Black Gold is a 1920s Arabian desert war epic with Antonio Banderas, Tahar Rahim, and Mark Strong. Trishna is an intimate, documentary style adaptation of Tess of The D’Urbervilles - all improved, which is the director Michael Winterbottom's way of working.
What/who originally turned you onto film?
It has always been a part of my life. I wasn't hugely sporty growing up - so video games and renting films on VHS with my cousins and mates were my main obsessions as a kid.
What has been your career high so far?
I don't know if I can choose a high, but the first film I ever did was Michael Winterbottom's Road to Guantanamo. It premiered at the Berlin Film Festival at the huge auditorium they have there, and we all went up on stage afterwards to a standing ovation. It was so emotional because of what the Tipton Three (whom the film was about) had gone through in Afghanistan and then in Guantanamo Bay, their journey to get to that spot - and the vindication of it - was very moving.
What was your first job in the film industry?
It was the Road to Guantanamo! It was a dream job - I actually left drama school early to take it!
If I knew then what I know now (a key piece of advice you'd give to someone starting in the film industry).....
I would relax more!
What is your favourite British film? Why?
It's hard for me to pick one but Dead Man's Shoes is phenomenal - Paddy Considine and Shane Meadows are our version of De Niro and Scorsese - and it was what put them on the map in lots of ways. Considine gives an amazing performance as ever, and I loved his recent directorial debut too - Tyrannosaur.
If you could have been involved with any film ever made, which one would it be? Why?
There are too many to mention - but probably The Thin Red Line. It’s my favourite film - it is epic and transcendent, to be a part of that would have been a privilege.
What's the first film you remember seeing? What was so memorable about it?
I think one of the Nightmare on Elm Street movies! What was so memorable was the blood guts and gore, of course!
What's your favourite line or scene from a film? Why?
The scene in Taxi Driver where De Niro is asking Sybill Shepherd out for a drink at her office. He is so fresh and real, she can't say no.
Who's your favourite screen character (can be hero or villain), and why?
I love the T1000 in Terminator 2. I was obsessed with that film growing up.
Who would play you in the film about your life? Why?
Someone as yet unknown - it would be their first film. Because I believe in new talent!