The role of my life? Osama bin Laden's nostrils

When British actor Ricky Sekhon was cast in Zero Dark Thirty he didn't realise quite how small the part would be

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The Independent Culture

In Kathryn Bigelow’s controversial, brilliant Zero Dark Thirty (*Mini spoiler alert*) you don’t actually see too much of the man at the centre of its plot – Osama bin Laden.

In fact the viewer only sees as much as the members of Seal Team 6 as they raided Bin Laden’s Abbottabad base in April 2011.

So, when British actor Ricky Sekhon was cast as Bin Laden in the film, he didn’t realise that most anyone would see of him in this role of a lifetime was his nostrils as the bodybag is zipped up. Oh well.

Sekhon has seen the bright side of things, though, writing an editorial opinion piece for the New York Times today: “If I had known that my nostrils’ poking out of a body bag would be the main feature of my performance … it would have saved me eight weeks of heart palpitations,” wrote the 29-year-old Londoner, a Sikh with a drama degree from Surrey’s Royal Holloway University. 

Though the actor is the same height as Bin Laden (6’4”) and has – in his words – a prominent nose, he doesn’t look much like Bin Laden. But having played a character based on Abu Hamza in David Baddiel’s 2010 comedy The Infidel, Sekhon admits he’s graduating “through the ranks of terrorists” quite nicely. Though, the only way is down from here… 

But one can only admire his preparation for a role with literally seconds of screen-time. Sekhon read books about Bin Laden, lost 25 pounds to match Bin Laden’s ill body size and even learned some basic Arabic on a Rosetta Stone CD,.

Sadly this brief cameo as one of the world’s most famous men didn’t actually feature any dialogue. As the actor concludes in his NYT piece: “Would I be prepared to play a universally despised emblem of evil again? I guess it would depend on how many lines I had.”