Paul Raci talks to us about the final scene in the terrific Sound Of Metal, and just what it means to him.

Spoilers for Sound Of Metal lie ahead.

On Amazon Prime Video and in UK cinemas now is the wonderful Sound Of Metal. It’s some piece of work, rightly garnering Oscar nominations, and we chatted to Paul Raci – who earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor – an issue or two back in our magazine. But we also had a question or two about the film’s ending that he’s answered for us here. Note that inevitably there are big spoilers here – final warning of that!

Without further ado…

You play such a pivotal role in Ruben’s journey to self-acceptance and stillness, and I want to talk about that key final scene you have with Ruben after his surgery, as I understand the film was shot chronologically. In terms of both Joe’s and Ruben’s emotional arcs, I imagine that must have felt like quite an organic scene to film?

Yes, that was the beautiful thing that Darius [Marder, director] insisted on, that he wanted to shoot it chronologically. And so, when you see the film, my very first scene where I’m doing the intake with Ruben, you know, Riz Ahmed and myself had just met each other that day. So we don’t even know each other, as Joe and Ruben don’t know each other.

And so we got to know each other as actors, as men, in the three-week shoot I was there. We get to that scene. It was beautiful. The whole three week shoot, the last day, the last scene; it was raining that morning, it was cloudy, it was dreary. All the deaf actors had wrapped and left the day before, so it felt kind of empty, and Riz Ahmed and myself – there was hardly any rehearsal for that scene.

We ran through our lines, but the emotional content… we were saying goodbye to each other as actors, as characters, saying goodbye to this experience together. And I don’t have to tell you, you can see it’s palpable… the emotion that the both of us were connected to each other. I’ll never forget it. What a morning that was.

When I looked over at Darius, who was standing in the corner while we were doing the scene, and tears were just streaming down his face. Oh, my goodness, I thought something’s very wrong or something’s happening that’s right. But it was just the perfect tone. Even the crew, the cast, the crew that was behind the cameras, they were so respectful, and reverent. And it was just fantastic. So that you can feel that final goodbye in that last scene.

During the film’s final scene, where Ruben eventually finds stillness in silence and finds his own acceptance as a deaf man; that is a direct nod to the conversation your character has with him, where you’re talking about moments of stillness and the Kingdom of God. What does that final scene mean to you, as an actor who’s entrenched in Deaf culture, but also, what do you think that scene would mean to Joe?

Oh, that’s everything. That scene is everything. But, you know, I think about the first time I saw in Chicago and, my parents were still alive, there was a cochlear implant seminar because it was a brand new invention at the time. My father was totally deaf from the age of six months, and was sitting next to me, and I asked my Dad “do you want one of those?”. And he goes, “No. I’m happy the way I am.”

So, to answer your question, when I read the script, which is exactly filmed as it is written, where he [Ruben] does the final gesture at the end, I thought to myself reading it, my father would stand up and just cheer. He would be cheering because my father didn’t want one. My father was against it. He loved his life the way it was, and he was happy the way he was. However, my mother had been deafened at the age of five. It intrigued her. So you know, it’s a personal journey. You can’t make a judgment. And as I said, there are so many different degrees and layers of hearing loss, that you just can’t make a judgment on people. They have to make their own decision and bless that as it is.

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