Monday , March 1 2021

Journeyman actor Paul Raci breaks into ‘Sound of Metal’

If art ever mimicked life, it was Paul Raci’s selection to play Joe, the guru’s leader in a sober house for the deaf, in the acclaimed drama “Sound of Metal” by the director and writer. Darius Marder.

Raci, 72, cut his teeth on the Chicago theater scene, has acted in many plays at the famous Deaf West Theater in Los Angeles and has been seen on television shows such as “Parks and Recreation,” “Goliath” and “Baskets.” But it was his experience of growing up with two deaf parents, his lifelong involvement with the deaf community, and fluency in American Sign Language that caught Marder’s attention once he expanded. the search for castings of initially deaf actors only in CODA (Children of Deaf Adults) such as Raci.

Like Joe, Raci is a Vietnam veterinarian who overcame addiction, has led recovery groups for the deaf, and, like the film’s deaf protagonist, Ruben (Riz Ahmed), plays in a heavy metal band. . The piece couldn’t be a more perfect fit.

The Envelope has recently spoken to Raci by telephone from his home in Burbank about these parallels and the attention he has been receiving for his excellent performance, which has included National Actor awards from the National Society of Film Critics and the National Board of Review, plus a Spirit Award nomination.

Darius Marder said the most important thing he learned while making the film was that “not everyone considers deafness to be a disability.” It is also one of the themes expressed in the film by your character. Can we talk a little about the division of deaf culture between those who accept to be deaf and those, like Ruben, who want to change or fix it?

There seems to be a divide between “Let me be, I’m perfect as I am” and “If you want to go ahead and do it [get cochlear implants] go ahead and give it a try. ”That’s all Joe tries to tell Ruben [when he decides to have the ear surgery], although Joe is really heartbroken by this decision.

But the deaf community in 2021 agrees much more to include everyone in the store. Deaf people have also taken hold of believing that they are leading their own destiny and not letting a hearing person tell them how they can think about themselves or what they are capable of doing. I wish my parents could be alive today to see this change in attitudes.

I think the lesson for all of us is that you can’t really judge another man’s or woman’s journey.

Was there anything that you, as a member of the deaf community, brought to your character or film that wasn’t specifically scripted?

Darius said to me from the first moment, “Look, I’m not Shakespeare, so if you think something’s wrong, let me know.” There are some lines in the film that weren’t written, like when Joe tells Ruben … about the bomb that deafened him in Vietnam: “I still remember the music I listened to when that bomb exploded.” It was a line of improvisation, and it comes from my mother, who still remembered the music [from before losing her hearing at 5].

And if you watch the movie, you’ll see the way Joe climbs the stairs … how he had to throw me off the railing. This is my father. My father, being deaf to stone, had a lot of balance problems, especially at night, and climbing stairs was like a dangerous journey. There are so many small, subtle things that influenced me.

Are there differences in attitudes between someone deaf or deaf from a very early age versus someone, like Joe or Ruben, who has lived much or most of their life with full hearing?

The difference is huge. Look at the difference between mine [born-deaf] the father, with his peaceful acceptance of who he was and his deaf world, and my mother, who he remembered hearing. The older she got, the more deaf she became, and she would say, “F— that; I don’t want to do that. ”Now, for someone like Ruben, it’s a hard road to lift, man, very hard. A guy like Joe: very hard.

Despite your lifelong history with deaf culture, have you learned anything new about the deaf community or about yourself playing Joe?

I can’t say I learned anything new except that there was a boost in realizing the permission of deaf people and the number of deaf actors who need a break. [It also] It reinforced my knowledge about [how] any deaf person, if you try to communicate with them, be present with their eyes … do a little gesturing or learn a phrase in sign language – oh, God, that just opens the door. They will be your best friend. They want to be in touch with auditory culture; they want to have a relationship with you.

I was satisfied [by it all]. I knew we were doing something good and the result speaks for itself. If you could have seen Riz on set, what it was like to integrate into the deaf community and what it was like to be open, it was a beautiful thing to see.

How has it suddenly been the focus of so much attention after spending 40 years as a travel actor?

Being in the middle of that moment is now overwhelming and rewarding. I think it just added about 20 years to my life, because right now I feel like a very young man.

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