Chicago’s Paul Raci wins Spirit Award for Metal

(Paul Raci accepts his Spirit Award)

Chicago was once again represented at an awards show and no, the film didn’t begin with Trial or Ma. After being shut out of Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild Award nominations and winning a BAFTA, Chicago-born Paul Raci won an Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Male for his critically-acclaimed performance in Sound of Metal.

Raci, who stars opposite Riz Ahmed in Sound of Metal, plays Joe, a deafened recovering alcoholic who runs a shelter for deaf recovering addicts. Joe becomes a mentor figure to Ahmed’s Ruben Stone, a drummer struggling with severe hearing loss.

The 73-year-old actor won the Spirit Award over nominees Colman Domingo (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom), Orion Lee (First Cow), Glynn Turmann (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) and Benedict Wong (Nine Days). Watch his acceptance speech below:

RELATED: Nomadland takes top prize at Spirit Awards

A former Altar Boy, Raci was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Polish descent, originally surnamed Racibożyński. He was a Hospital Corpsman in the United States Navy, attaining the rank of Petty Officer Second Class (HM2). He served aboard the aircraft carrier, the USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) from 1969–1973, serving two tours in Vietnam.

When he turned to acting, Raci found TV roles on ER, CSI, Parks and Recreation, Rizzoli and Isles, Goliath, Baskets, Scrubs and more.

According to director Darius Marder, several A-list actors were considered for the role of Joe, but for the sake of authenticity, Raci was selected because he was raised as the hearing son of deaf parents and he is fluent in American Sign Language.

During Deadline Contenders Raci spoke about what lured him to the role of Joe:

“It just seemed so sincere, so authentic, and of course so real. When I read it originally, Joe was an Iraq war veteran. My experience was Vietnam, so that changed. But everything else, from all the experiences through the deaf sober house, which I have been so immersed in for most of my life as a sign language interpreter, through to the ending as it was written, which was just how we filmed it, it was moving. Deaf people have never seen themselves portrayed as deaf addicts, but actually, there’s a deaf sober house here in Los Angeles called Awakenings, and it’s deaf-owned and deaf-run. There were just so many things about the script that seemed so true to me.”

Sunday night, Raci will compete at the Oscars in the Best Supporting Actor race opposite Daniel Kaluuya (Judas and the Black Messiah), Lakeith Stanfield (Judas and the Black Messiah), Leslie Odom Jr. (One Night in Miami), and Sacha Baron Cohen (The Trial of the Chicago 7).

Sound of Metal is now streaming on Amazon. The 93rd Oscars will be held on Sunday, April 25, 2021, on ABC at 7 p.m. CST. 

Reel Chicago is rooting for you, Paul.