London-based Ricky Sekhon was happy doing theatre and small roles in Hollywood films until a chance call from the casting director of Oscar winner Kathryn Bigelow’s docudrama Zero Dark Thirty landed him the biggest role of his life. “I knew the least about what was coming my way. When I went for the audition, I just knew it was for the role of a terrorist. A week later, I got a call confirming that I was to play the world’s most notorious terrorist, Osama Bin Laden,” says Sekhon.
In this photo released by Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc., Jessica Chastain (C) plays a role in Columbia Pictures' new thriller, Zero Dark Thirty. AP Photo
Sekhon had to sign a bond that he would not talk about his role with anybody. “I just told my mom, dad and my girlfriend because they’d see me doing weird things while I prepared for the role,” says the 29-year-old.
So did he have second thoughts before accepting the role? “No. I loved the challenge, but how does one play the global face of evil? I wasn’t sure if I could pull it off. I did not have anything more than internet footage to reckon with. I didn’t have an agent to help me prepare for the part, I hadn’t seen the script and I was definitely not ‘Bin Laden skinny’,” says Sekhon, who graduated in drama from the University of London, and was last seen as a henchman in David Baddiel’s 2010 comedy, The Infidel. “I had to shed a lot of weight.
In films, image is everything, and here I was, playing a very ill man. While on vacation in Jamaica, my friend Henry, a personal trainer, had me running up hills in the morning heat, eating only eggs, lean meat and fish,” says the actor, who speaks fluent Punjabi because of his roots in Patiala. Does he watch Bollywood films? “I’m a little overwhelmed by the sheer output of the industry ... I would love to act in a Hindi or Punjabi film,” he says.
(With inputs from Pooja Vashisht Alexander)