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Riz Ahmed Realized After ‘Venom’ That He Didn’t Yet Have the ‘Skill Set’ to Act in Blockbusters

Ahmed no longer wants to lose himself in roles. Instead, he wants to find himself.

Riz Ahmed

Riz Ahmed

Columbia Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection

Jake Gyllenhaal was overcome with anxiety on the set of the Marvel tentpole “Spider-Man: Far From Home” when he realized how unprepared he was for the style of acting required to pull off a big comic book tentpole. “It’s hard, man. That acting is hard. All of it,” the actor said earlier this month about performing in the MCU. It sounds like Riz Ahmed knows what Gyllenhaal means. Speaking to Variety for a new cover story, the “Sound of Metal” Oscar nominee said starring in the 2018 tentpole “Venom” made him realize he didn’t have the skills necessary to pull off a blockbuster-sized performance. Ahmed played the villainous inventor Carlton Drake in the movie.

“I’m not saying I don’t like those big movies. I’m saying I had not learned yet how to bring myself to those movies,” Ahmed said about his “Venom” takeaway. “Those films teach you stamina, technical craft, and it is a skill to be able to eke out your artistry in that setting. Look at Javier Bardem in ‘Skyfall.’ I just hadn’t developed the skill set at that point to do the technical thing and the emotional thing.”

Ahmed said after “Venom” his interest in acting got recalibrated from shape-shifting into other people to tapping into his own personal experience. The actor wants to find himself in his roles, not lose himself in them like some of his peers.

“The idea of making masks and wearing masks is something that came very naturally to me, as someone who grew up code-switching between different cultural environments and class environments,” Ahmed said. “Shape-shifting to fit into other molds. Acting became an extension of that, and more recently what I’ve thought about it is taking masks off. Of course, if you believe on some deep internal level that you aren’t the right type — the right color, shape, size, accent — then you will start instinctively wearing masks. So it’s been a shift in self-perception for me to say, ‘You know what? I am enough. We are all enough.’”

Ahmed recently took on the the festival circuit at Telluride and TIFF with his science-fiction drama “Encounter.” In addition to “Venom,” the actor got blockbuster acting experience with a supporting role in “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.”

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