Chicago theater veteran Paul Raci nominated for Oscar

He’s a best supporting actor contender for his work in ‘Sound of Metal.’

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Paul Raci plays the owner of a substance abuse treatment facility for the deaf in “Sound of Metal.”

Amazon Studios

Paul Raci, a journeyman actor who got his start in Chicago theater, won an Academy Award nomination on Monday for his breakout role in “Sound of Metal.”

The local native, who grew up in the 2300 block of West Potomac Avenue in Humboldt Park, is a best supporting actor nominee for his performance as Joe, the owner of a substance abuse treatment facility for the deaf.

Joe advises a punk-metal drummer, played by Riz Ahmed, who abruptly loses his hearing while on tour. Ahmed is a best actor nominee, and the film is nominated for best picture.

“During my 40-something-year acting career, I have always been about the work,” Raci, 72, said in a statement Monday. “I’ve continued to work in small theater houses, like Deaf West Theatre, doing what I was trained to do from my Chicago Theater years, but to be validated in this way is gratifying on a level that I can only describe as heavenly.”

He expressed thanks to “Sound of Metal” writer-director Darius Marder “for directing and writing a script and a character seemingly for me without even knowing me that changed my life.”

Ahmed added that when he heard Raci and Marder announce as nominees, he was so happy he was ”punching the air and jumping up and down in my bed and screaming!” 

At the April 25 Oscars, Raci will be up against the two stars of “Judas and the Black Messiah”, Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield, as well as Leslie Odom Jr. of “One Night in Miami” and Sacha Baron Cohen of “The Trial of the Chicago 7.”

Another former Chicagoan in the running is Steven Yeun, nominated as best actor for his work as a would-be farmer who transplants his family to Arkansas in “Minari.” The South Korean native, best known for “The Walking Dead,” used to perform improv in Chicago with Stir-Friday Night and The Second City. He is the first Asian American ever nominated in the category.

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