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'Channelling the mindset of bin Laden' - Royal Holloway alumnus lands role in Zero Dark Thirty

Posted on 25/01/2013

The Oscar-nominated film Zero Dark Thirty, released in cinemas today, features Royal Holloway Drama alumnus Ricky Sekhon who plays the man at the centre of the plot – Osama bin Laden.

The film follows the 10 year manhunt for the al-Qaeda terrorist, which ended with his assassination in 2011.

Despite not knowing the extent to which his character would be shown in the film, that did not deter Ricky from carrying out weeks of preparation, including reading books about bin Laden, losing 25 pounds and learning basic Arabic.

Ricky says it was eye-opening to immerse himself in the character of the world’s most hated terrorist.

“I concentrated on details and specific character references”, he says. “My diet and exercise regime affected my mood quite a bit, but all of the reading I was doing was a good distraction. I am committed to my work but would not let it affect my personal life to a large extent.

“I picked through all of the literature I was reading to try and build a coherent account and character of the man I was playing. I was lucky to have such a talented hair and make-up department. After two hours in the chair, the transformation was complete and it was a lot easier for me to find focus and begin to channel the mindset and internal impulses of bin Laden.” 

The actor, who also played a character based on Islamist preacher Abu Hamza in the 2010 comedy The Infidel, landed the role of bin-Laden after a casting director called him out of the blue.

He said: “It was a fantastic experience working with people on Zero Dark Thirty who are the best at what they do. It was an extremely professional, creative, brave work environment - but also a really fun one. I certainly learnt a lot.”

Ricky graduated from Royal Holloway in 2004. He said: “I had a great time at Royal Holloway - I had some fantastic lecturers on my Drama course and made a very good set of friends who are all now working successfully in the industry. My degree coupled with my acting training at the National Youth Theatre equipped me with a great skill set to take forward in my career.” 



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