Olivia Cooke And Riz Ahmed Started A Metal Band For Their New Film Sound Of Metal

The beauty of a truly great performance is when actors can make us believe completely they are their characters. In the instance of Sound Of Metal, Riz Ahmed and Olivia Cooke were tasked with becoming a punk-metal band, with Ahmed’s Ruben as the drummer and Cooke’s Lou as the lead singer and guitarist of their fictional duo, Blackgammon. Both actors did some major preparation for the movie coming to Amazon Prime this weekend.

Sound of Metal follows the fallout when Ruben begins to lose his hearing and struggles to adapt to his new situation. He seeks help in Paul Raci’s Joe, a leader within a deaf community in the movie. When CinemaBlend’s Jeff McCobb spoke to the cast of Sound of Metal, Olivia Cooke opened up about her experience becoming a punk rocker with these words:

What was lucky is I had a wonderful mentor called Margaret Chardiet of the band Pharmakon, who I just stole, ripped off her entire being. She taught me how to play guitar, how to scream. We wrote the lyrics for the song together even though you can’t quite hear what I’m saying and she was just amazing. And then Riz and I were brought together to immerse these skills we just learned and to become a fully realized band. It was wonderful to have that experience, because we were then really bonded by the sheer terror of having to sometime soon perform it and it made the relationship we had on screen that much more nuanced and deep.

It sounds like Olivia Cooke really had to start from scratch, and her mentor was an actual musician who showed her the ropes for guitar-playing, singing and the art of the vocal technique of screaming, a common element in metal and punk music. The Ready Player One actress also worked with Margaret Chardiet on the lyrics for the music in the movie’s fictional band. Then, she and Riz Ahmed collaborated together too, and worked to create their band for the film. It had to be a lot of work. Rogue One actor Ahmed said this about his own experience:

I would say that learning the drums has taught me I shouldn’t try to play the drums just because it’s like a mountain to climb. It’s such an obsessive, explosive, athletic, psychological, primal kind of infinite instrument… I feel like what the drums and sign language did for me was they opened me up physically in new ways because they are non-verbal communication. As a rapper I’m often playing a lot with words but this kind of forced me to try to understand the true meaning of communication, which is about embodying things.

What’s crazy is not only did Riz Ahmed learn the drums for Sound of Metal, but he also had to pick up sign language. It’s seriously intense. Now Ahmed is already an accomplished rapper, so he’s already musically-inclined. But he found drums to be a completely different animal to tackle, and he’s not exactly running to another drum set anytime soon. Although it wasn't easy to pick up, he really loved the challenge of learning about communication from a new perspective.

Sound of Metal was written and directed by Darius Marder, who previously wrote The Place Beyond the Pines with Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper. The movie is a must-see that has been highly-praised by critics, including CinemaBlend’s own Eric Eisenberg, who gave the movie a 4.5 out of 5 score and said Riz Ahmed especially pulls in one of his “best” performances. Sound of Metal is coming to Amazon Prime on Friday, December 4. Check out what else is rounding out the year with CinemaBlend’s 2020 release schedule and stay tuned for more exclusive interviews.

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Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

Sarah El-Mahmoud has been with CinemaBlend since 2018 after graduating from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Journalism. In college, she was the Managing Editor of the award-winning college paper, The Daily Titan, where she specialized in writing/editing long-form features, profiles and arts & entertainment coverage, including her first run-in with movie reporting, with a phone interview with Guillermo del Toro for Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water. Now she's into covering YA television and movies, and plenty of horror. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.