The unknown British-Indian actor tasked with playing Osama bin Laden in a film about the greatest manhunt in history has spoken about playing the former Al Qaeda leader.
Ricky Sekhon, 29, was plucked from relative obscurity to play the antagonist in Katherine Bigelow's hotly anticipated 'Zero Dark Thirty', the account of the covert American operation which led to the killing of bin Laden in Abottabad, Pakistan.
The film - starring Jessica Chastain - received four Golden Globe nominations last week and is tipped for success come award season.
And it's set to change Sekhon's life.
Born in Southall, West London the drama and theatre graduate from Royal Holloway University, has spent the past eight years playing stereotypical bit parts in films such as 'All the Children are Sleeping' (2006) and 'The Infidel' (2010).
The 6-foot-4 actor says he got the part in 'Zero Dark Thirty' after being called to audition for a role the casting director was not allowed to name.
Sekhon told the New York Post: “I think I was asked about my height a few times, and that made me think, ‘OK, I’ll be playing a tall man or woman.' ”
“But I wasn’t fooling myself. My span of film castings have consisted of either terrorist, drug dealer, drug addict, heavy, henchman, large man, very tall man. I think it’s something to do with how I look.”
He was told he’d be playing bin Laden only after the role was his.
He admits the prospect was worrying, particularly as he describes himself as 'The Least Dangerous Man in the World'.
“There were a few sleepless nights, to say the least,” he said. “I don’t care how much confidence you have, hearing news like that will really put the s--t into you if you’re planning on taking it seriously, which I was.”
The preparation for the role was intense, with eight weeks of reading about Al Qaeda, the Middle East, learning Arabic and losing weight to play the tall but gangly Saudi-born terrorist.
Much like the Casting Director and others on the production, Sekhon has been sworn to secrecy about the specifics of the film, as specific details of the CIA operation are still classified and there is contention as to the sources used by the films' writers.
Even with its release just two days away, the actor has been forbidden by Sony Pictures from discussing the specifics of filming the thriller.
The actor says he even hesitated telling many of those around him that he had gotten the role “for fear of being thrown off the project.”
“But I told my mum, dad and my girlfriend, because they would see me doing strange things during my preparation,” he said.
“They were very glad for me, as they know I’m happiest when I’m acting.”
The dearth of opportunities over the past eight years reportedly prompted the actor to set up his own property development company in Surrey.
Playing history's most infamous characters, Sekhon hopes, will get him more opportunities; his next project is a Swedish film, he tells the Post.
But the actor says the experience has been enriching.
“I think it’s a story that wanted and needed to be told,” he said. “I think it’s important to explore, with honesty, the history of war, politics and culture through literature, film, TV and debate so that we can continue to learn from our mistakes and evolve as a society.”
'Zero Dark Thirty' is in cinemas January 11th 2013BLOG COMMENTS POWERED BY DISQUS