BBorn in London, Riz Ahmed, 38, studied politics, philosophy and economics at Oxford University. His films include Four Lions, Rogue One, and Venom; won an Emmy for his role in the miniseries The Night Of. He has been nominated for an Oscar for best actor for his role in the film. Sound of metal, available on Amazon Prime starting April 12. Last year he released a rap album, The Long Goodbye. He recently married American novelist Fatima Farheen Mirza.
When were you happiest?
Getting ready for Sound Of Metal. Feeling challenged, overwhelmed, and lost in something is very rewarding.
What is your biggest fear?
Something bad is happening to your loved ones. It is a fear that you have to accept, because you can barely control things in your own life, much less in other people’s.
What is your first memory?
To be in Pakistan at the age of two and have a vaccination to go there. We were visiting my dad’s family; my mother’s were all in England by then.
What was your most embarrassing moment?
I was booed offstage during a rap battle, when something I said was misinterpreted as racist. In fact, it was my response to someone who was being racist to me.
What is your most prized possession?
My diaries. I keep a diary of filming that I have kept for the last 15 years, since I started working professionally.
What book changed your life?
The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley.
What is your favorite smell?
Homemade Nihari: This is a curry that is simmered and the meat falls off the bone. The smell is the smell of: OK, go, let’s eat and go into a food coma for several hours.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Social media: I can’t resist giving my brain that junk food.
What is your favorite word?
Tremendous. I used to play soccer in the park near my house, and every time one of us scored a goal, one of the children would say, “What a tremendous goal!” As if he were a commentator.
What did you want to be when you were little?
I wanted to act in some way, but I didn’t think it was viable. The teachers told me that I should be a lawyer, because I was always arguing with them.
Who would you like to apologize for and why?
Some of my teachers. I was a bit complicated when I was a kid. They were just trying to do their job and I made it very difficult for them.
How does love feel?
Openness, curiosity and compassion.
If you could edit your past, what would you change?
I would care less what people think.
What would improve your quality of life?
Less administration, emails, phone calls; more space to think, read and sleep.
What keeps you awake at night?
The idea that you could be doing more: being more productive, doing more of the things that matter and less of the things that don’t.
How would you like to be remembered?
If you remember me, that would be fine. I won’t be picky.
What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
How empowering it can be to let go and surrender to the flow of things, rather than controlling them.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism