Riz Ahmed Shoots Down Rumors About 'Rogue One' Prequel Film
What's He Up To Now?
Landing a major role in a tentpole movie or franchise like Star Wars or Marvel may be a dream-come-true for an upcoming actor or an actress.
But such a gig often comes with a high price tag. Being part of such a high stakes and high budget movie can put a lot of pressure on that person. These films are often a long term commitment (especially if they also involve sequels), and one may end up far from home and family for several months. There are giant (and maybe intimidating) sets with a lot of people watching your every move. Even if the practical effects have made kind of a renaissance in recent years, especially in big action fantasy or science-fiction films, there is still a lot of green screen work, with acting just against a wall or a tennis ball in front of you that will later be replaced with the actual object or a character in post-production. If you get to play a non-human character, you might get stuck in a mo-cap suit or a lot of make-up for weeks. There may be co-stars or a director whose social skills leave much to be desired. And when the movie is finally out, you have to deal with “fans” that harass you because of your identity, and you can’t even go shopping to a grocery store without wearing sunglasses and a hat in order to not be stalked by paparazzi.
So, it is no wonder that many actors turn their backs on such big movies (at least for a time) after such an experience and return to smaller, often more personally challenging projects. Riz Ahmed, who played Imperial deserter Bodhi Rook and was part of the rebel team that stole the plans to the first Death Star in Rogue One (2016), seems to be heading in that direction. He also played the villain Carlton Drake in 2018's Venom, another blockbuster.
In 2019, he appeared in the independent film Sound of Metal, where he played Ruben Stone, an ex-junkie and now drummer of a heavy-metal duo, who suddenly loses hearing and slowly has to learn to cope with this new situation. For this role, Ahmed had to learn both drumming and ASL (American Sign Language), training that took nearly a full year. But the hard work paid off: Sound of Metal was shown on several film festivals in the US, Canada, and Europe, and both the movie itself and Riz Ahmed have either been nominated for or even won a number of prizes. Ahmed, who started acting in school to release some of his anger and frustration could even be in the run for an an Academy Award for best actor (he would be the only second actor from South Asia to achieve this - after Ben Kingsley).
And it seems that the experiences he has made on Sound of Metal have changed his mind on his future career, because when recently asked by The Hollywood Reporter if he would return to Venom, he basically declined:
"I think I'm done in Venom. It's pretty conclusive. Dude got blown up in a spaceship."
But also the possibility of playing Bodhi Rook in a Rogue One prequel didn't seem to spark any interest. While there is a prequel series titled Star Wars: Andor on the way, the article from The Hollywood Reporter mentions having asked him about a Rogue One prequel film that has been rumored. In any case, his response according to the article was the following:
"I just haven't heard of that, to be honest."
It seems like a safe bet that Ahmed is not returning to Star Wars anytime soon. Of course, other actors have shied away from Star Wars in the past: Sir Alec Guinness was not too fond of returning as a Force ghost Obi-Wan Kenobi in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi after his character was killed in A New Hope. Harrison Ford was more or less fed up with playing Han Solo after Empire. Natalie Portman expressed her disappointment with backlash against the prequel trilogy, and both Oscar Isaac and John Boyega have both stated that they are not interested in taking on the roles of Poe Dameron and Finn unless they need another house and can return via animation, respectively. Denis Lawson, who played Wedge Antilles, had long been disinterested in reprising his role, with his cameo in The Rise of Skywalker being very brief. Even George Lucas has asserted that he wants to move away from the saga to focus on other things.
On the other hand, one should not take such “never again” moments too seriously. Although Ford repeatedly said that he thinks Han Solo is one of the most boring characters he has ever played, he returned to this role in two more movies after Return of the Jedi Natalie Portman, who was also fed up with the role of Jane Foster after Thor: The Dark World, not only changed her mind, but will even grab the hammer of the Nordic god in the upcoming Thor: Love and Thunder.
Usually, it boils down to the paycheck that an actor is offered, if he or she is willing to return to a role. And although statements like “I will play xyz again, if I need a new house” sound sarcastic and like a slap in the face of fans that deeply care for their beloved characters, the film industry is ultimately just a business that - after all - is run by money .
As for Riz Ahmed, instead of continuing to star in big popcorn flicks, he decided to return to the smaller, more intimate but more emotionally challenging movies, such as the ones that he had starred in before his blockbuster appearances. It just felt right for him:
"My gut feeling about it was so strong. And for whatever reason, I felt really hungry for something like that, to go all in and just f*****g go there."
He appeared in Mogul Mowgli, where he played a rapper that gets seriously ill before his first big tour. He also did the film Invasion for Amazon, worked with the Obamas on Exit West for Netflix, signed a first-look deal with Amazon Studios with his own production company Left Handed Films, and got married during the pandemic.
And so it seems that he will be quite busy making movies on a scale that is quite smaller than that of a Marvel or Star Wars film, but obviously also more satisfying for him.
Written By Gerald Petschk
Source(s): The Hollywood Reporter
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