Riz Ahmed Talks About His Transformation for His Latest Movie ‘Mogul Mowgli’
British Pakistani actor Riz Ahmed attends the 93rd Annual Academy Awards at Union Station on April 25, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Chris Pizzello-Pool/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON — Oscar-nominated actor Riz Ahmed recently opened up about the dramatic physical transformation he underwent for his latest role in the film “Mogul Mowgli.”
The 38-year-old British Pakistani actor told IndieWire that his latest role as Zed, a Pakistani rapper whose career is threatened when he’s diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, was “about intense weight loss,” reported People magazine. “I lost 10 kilos [about 22 pounds] in three weeks. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone,” Ahmed said.
The actor was sure to enlist the help of an expert to safely undergo his extreme weight loss for the film, but he said the process was still challenging.
“I had a professional dietician working with me, but it was really grueling and took me emotionally to an intense place, which probably informed the movie,” he explained.
“That was a big part of it, being in a place of weakness and fatigue and insatiable hunger,” the actor added.
Ahmed quoted fellow actor Daniel Kaluuya to explain his process for embodying Zed, telling IndieWire, “Dan Kaluuya said something I liked: ‘If you’re in your head, you’re dead.’ I think that’s true.”
He added, “Acting has to be in your body. Anything that brings you into your body centers you, and you can perform in that place.”
Ahmed’s latest role comes not long after he played another musician onscreen in “The Sound of Metal,” the 2019 film in which he starred as a drummer named Ruben who is losing his hearing. To bring his character to life, Ahmed learned how to play the drums, he told People magazine in December.
“As soon as I met Darius Marder, the director, he told me: ‘Listen, we’re going to do this all for real. When you’re drumming onscreen, you’re going to be drumming for real. And when you’re playing a gig, we’re gonna play in a real nightclub in front of a real audience’,” Ahmed said.
The actor described playing an instrument as “a very psychological thing,” adding, “You can’t think your way through playing the drums, you have to kind of surrender; you have to let them play you almost. You have to trust. I think it kind of opened me up in new ways.”
While his role in “The Sound of Metal” didn’t require the grueling physical changes he underwent for “Mogul Mowgli,” Ahmed modified his body in a different way to play Ruben.
The actor told People magazine he wore “modified hearing aids placed deep into my ear canal” that played white noise. The sound was so intense that Ahmed “couldn’t even hear myself speak,” he added.