Riz Ahmed

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For other people, see Rizwan Ahmed.
Riz Ahmed
Riz Ahmed performing at Occupy London NYE Party 2011.jpg
Ahmed performing in 2011.
Born Rizwan Ahmed
(1982-12-01) 1 December 1982 (age 33)
Wembley, London, England
Nationality British
Ethnicity Sindhi
Occupation Actor, rapper
Years active 2006–present
Musical career
Genres Hip hop
Labels Tru Thoughts
Associated acts Plan B, Heems, Swet Shop Boys, Distance[1]
Website www.rizmc.com

Rizwan "Riz" Ahmed (born 1 December 1982), also known as Riz MC, is a British actor and rapper. He has starred in The Road to Guantanamo, Shifty, Britz, Four Lions, Ill Manors, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, and Nightcrawler.

Early life[edit]

Ahmed was born into a Muslim family in Wembley, London. He is of Pakistani heritage, and has as one of his ancestors Sir Shah Muhammad Sulaiman, "the first Indian judge appointed by the British in Uttar Pradesh"[2] - through him, he's also a descendant of Mulla Mahmud Jaunpuri, one of the foremost Islamic philosopher-scientists produced during the Mughal empire. His parents moved to England from Karachi, Pakistan during the 1970s.[3] He attended Merchant Taylors' School, Northwood through a scholarship programme. He graduated from Christ Church, Oxford with a degree in PPE and studied acting at the Central School of Speech and Drama.

Acting career[edit]

Television and film[edit]

Ahmed's film career began in the Michael Winterbottom film The Road to Guantanamo in which he played the part of Shafiq Rasul, a member of the Tipton Three. He and another actor involved in the film as well as two of the Tipton Three were detained at Luton Airport upon their return from the Berlin Film Festival where the film won a Silver Bear Award.[4] Across his years as an actor he has also featured in various TV roles. He has played Sohail Waheed in the 2007 Channel 4 drama, Britz. 2008 saw him perform as both Riq in the five-part horror thriller for E4, Dead Set and Manesh Kunzru in ITV1's finance fraud drama Wired. In July 2009 in appeared in Freefall alongside Sarah Harding. He featured in the title role of the 2009 independent film Shifty, directed by Eran Creevy. Ahmed plays a charismatic young drug dealer in the film which sees a life in the day of this character. He was nominated for Best Actor at the 2008 British Independent Film Awards for this role, alongside Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson.

Continuing his film career, he featured in the 2009 Sally Potter production of Rage and in 2010, in Chris Morris' satire on terrorism, Four Lions, for which he received his second British Independent Film Award nomination for Best Actor. Ahmed also had a supporting role in Neil Marshall's historical thriller Centurion.

In 2012, he starred as one of the leading roles in the London-based film Ill Manors, directed by Plan B as "Aaron": Ahmed received his third and most recent British Independent Film Award nomination for Best Actor. He assumed the lead role in Mira Nair's adaptation of the best-selling novel by Mohsin Hamid, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, alongside Kate Hudson, Kiefer Sutherland, Om Puri, Shabana Azmi, and Liev Schreiber.

In Nightcrawler (2014), he was cast in a major role as Rick, a cash strapped homeless young man who becomes the assistant to a driven and possibly unhinged paparazzo, Lou (Jake Gyllenhaal). The movie is about the seedy underbelly of freelance crime news reporters for whom the most violent crimes are the biggest scoops. Out of job options, he works with the maniacal Lou, who increasingly takes ethics and law into his own hands for larger news scoops. Thewrap.com called it "shocking, portrait of a sociopath's self-actualization. Gilroy ramps up the suspense while mining pearls of black humor as Louis becomes bolder in his quest for bigger paychecks and increasingly voyeuristic images." In an interview, Jake Gyllenhaal stated "Rick, is the moral center of the movie. He's the guy who tries to keep the compass straight and really tries to direct you towards something good .. and human .. and connected .. and the things he says are the most human of all characters and I think that's what Lou loves in him".


Ahmed played a role in the Asian Dub Foundation opera Gaddafi and a starring role as psychotic serial-killer-turned-born-again-Christian Lucius in the Lighthouse Theatre's acclaimed production of Stephen Adly Guirgis's Jesus Hopped the 'A' Train (directed by Jack William Clift and Thomas Sweatman) as well as in Shan Khan's Prayer Room.

Music career[edit]

In 2006, Ahmed released a satirical social-commentary rap track entitled "Post 9/11 Blues". The song was initially banned from British airplay because the lyrics were deemed ‘politically sensitive’[citation needed]. Other tracks he has released include "Sour Times" which was accompanied by a video featuring Scroobius Pip, Plan B and Jim Sturgess.

He was selected as a BBC Introducing artist in 2007, playing the Glastonbury Festival and the BBC Electric Proms. He opened the Meltdown Festival with Bristol-based trip-hop group Massive Attack at the Royal Festival Hall in 2008, and was appointed 'Emerging Artist in Residence' at the Southbank Centre in London. He played at the London Camp for Climate Action in August 2009.

Ahmed also co-founded the Hit & Run night in Oxford, which has since moved to Manchester. Hit & Run has gone on to become one of Manchester's leading underground music events.[citation needed]

He released his debut album MICroscope in 2011.

On 1 December 2011, it was announced that Riz MC had signed to Tru Thoughts, an independent label in Brighton.[5]

In February 2015 Dubstep artist Distance announced that he had recently finished producing an album with Ahmed called 'HalfLife'.[6]



Year Title Role Notes
2006 The Road to Guantanamo Shafiq
2008 Shifty Shifty Geneva Cinéma Tout Ecran Award for Best Actor
Nominated—British Independent Film Award for Best Actor
2009 Rage Vijay
2010 Four Lions Omar Nominated—British Independent Film Award for Best Actor[7]
2010 Centurion Tarik
2011 Black Gold Ali
2011 Trishna Jay
2012 Ill Manors Aaron Nominated—British Independent Film Award for Best Actor[8]
2013 The Reluctant Fundamentalist Changez
2013 Closed Circuit Nazrul Sharma
2014 Nightcrawler Rick Nominated—Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Male
Nominated—Gotham Independent Film Award for Breakthrough Actor
Nominated—London Film Critics' Circle Award for Supporting Actor of the Year
Nominated—San Diego Film Critics Society Award for Best Supporting Actor
2016 City of Tiny Lights Tommy Akhtar Post-production
2016 Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Bodhi Rook Filming
2016 Jason Bourne Aaron Kalloor Filming


Year Title Role Notes
2006 The Path to 9/11 Television film
2007 Britz Sohail Wahid Two-part serial
2008 Dead Set Riq Miniseries
2009 Freefall Gary Television film





  • "The Post 9/11 Blues" (2006)
  • "People Like People" (2007)
  • "Radar" (2008)
  • "Shifty" (with Sway & Plan B) (2009)
  • "Don't Sleep" (2009)
  • "Hundreds and Thousands" (2010)
  • "Get on It" (2010)
  • "All of You" (2011)



  1. ^ "Distance: When hype fades, things become a lot clearer". Skiddle.com. 2015-02-25. Retrieved 2015-07-17. 
  2. ^ Indira Kannan (24 May 2013). "London Meets Lahore". India Today. Retrieved 1 September 2015. 
  3. ^ Priyanka Dasgupta (2 May 2011). "Michael had me baptized by fire: Riz Ahmed". The Times of India. Retrieved 18 April 2011. 
  4. ^ "Guantanamo duo 'held' at airport". BBC News. 21 February 2006. 
  5. ^ "Quantic presents The Western Transient A New Constellation | News". Tru Thoughts. 2015-07-10. Retrieved 2015-07-17. 
  6. ^ "Distance: When hype fades, things become a lot clearer". Skiddle.com. 2015-02-25. Retrieved 2015-07-17. 
  7. ^ "Awards for 2010 : British Independent Film Award". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2015-07-17. 
  8. ^ "Awards for 2012 : British Independent Film Award". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2015-07-17. 
  9. ^ Blaney, Martin (2011-12-08). "European Film Promotion unveils 2012 Shooting Stars longlist | News | Screen". Screendaily.com. Retrieved 2011-12-14. 

External links[edit]