Bin Laden star is captured for new movie role about the most hunted man on the planet
21:46 GMT, 7 June 2012
The name of the actor portraying Osama bin Laden in a film about how the CIA and U.S. special forces killed the Al Qaeda leader is — or let’s say was — about as Top Secret Classified as real Pentagon data. But this column relished the challenge of hunting down the thespian’s identity.
Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow chose British-based actor Ricky Sekhon to portray bin Laden who, for more than a decade, was the most hunted man on the planet.
The movie, which has the working title Zero Dark Thirty, stars Jessica Chastain, Joel Edgerton, Mark Strong and Jason Clarke as intelligence and national security operatives who, last May, tracked down the 9/11 mastermind to his hideout in a walled compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
British-based actor Ricky Sekhon has been picked to portray terrorist Osama bin Laden in a new film
The picture has been shooting in Jordan and will soon re-locate to London.
But Sekhon’s work playing the Saudi-born terrorist is complete. He spent three weeks filming his scenes in the Middle East and has now returned to the UK where he lives with his wife, a photographer.
The role in Bigelow’s eagerly awaited film represents an opportunity for him to garner bigger roles. Thus far his largest part was in David Baddiel’s movie The Infidel.
Co-star: Jessica Chastain also stars in the film with a current working title of Zero Dark Thirty
Roles for actors of Asian background are not plentiful and often they are forced to play typecast characters.
Sekhon, I understand, did extensive research for his portrayal of bin Laden, while other actors working on the film told me he took the decision to drop two stone to be more in line with bin Laden’s 11st 11lb weight. ‘I don’t want my character to look unusually hefty,’ he told colleagues.
When I reached Sekhon, who when he’s not acting runs a house building company with his father, he politely declined to discuss working with Bigelow and portraying bin Laden.
‘Yeah, I had a part in it, but I can’t talk about it, as I’m on quite a big non-disclosure agreement,’ he said.
When I was in Cannes for the film festival an executive connected to Zero Dark Thirty explained that Sekhon’s name and those of a few others had been kept off the official cast list because of the ‘sensitive nature’ of the characters they had been contracted to portray.
The film’s due to be released in December, right in the middle of awards season.
Anna's the girl from Uncle
Anna Friel, pictured, is getting ready to cast her spell over Uncle Vanya.
The actress will play the sensuous Yelena in a production of Chekhov’s drama that stars Ken Stott in the title role and Samuel West as Astrov — yet another man who’s fallen for the charms of a woman who is beyond bored by her marriage to her elderly professor husband.
‘All these men lust after Yelena and, in
a way, she has them under her spell,’ observed Kim Poster, producing
the play with powerful theatre owner Nica Burns and impresario Robert
Chekhov's classic: Anna Friel will play Yelena in Uncle Vanya
‘Anna has discussed the role with us and our director Lindsay Posner and we’re thrilled she’s coming into the classical world. Anna’s a passionate woman and beautiful, which will help audiences understand why Vanya and the others want her,’ Ms Poster added.
Yelena is one of Chekhov’s most fascinating characters because it’s not enough to be simply a stunner. I’m still haunted by the Garbo-esque haughtiness captured sublimely by Helen McCrory at the Donmar in 2002.
This Uncle Vanya will begin performances at the Vaudeville Theatre from October 24, with an official opening night set for November 2.
Director Posner will work from an adaptation that Christopher Hampton wrote for the Royal Court in 1970. Hampton has been ‘refreshing’ his version. ‘He’s revitalising it and freshening it up — it’s almost like a new adaptation of his adaptation,’ I was told.
Rowan Atkinson is going to take on a stage role that, somehow, captures the very essence of HM the Queen and hubby Prince Philip standing stoically on a barge for hours on the Thames . . . a quintessential sense of Britishness.
The actor will star in Simon Gray’s Quartermaine’s Terms, a heartbreaking comedy about St John Quartermaine, a teacher at a Cambridge English language school who happens to be quite useless at what he does.
‘But he still muddles on,’ noted Michael Codron, who will produce Quartermaine’s Terms at Wyndham’s Theatre. He also produced the original production back in 1981, when Edward Fox played the eponymous role and was directed by Harold Pinter.
This time round, Richard Eyre will direct Atkinson. Codron said it could mark his swansong, although I suspect he will always have shows to put on. He’s rather enjoying the success of Top Hat, packing them in at the Aldwych, which he runs.
Codron observed that Quartermaine’s Terms is about English values. ‘We are all decent people, even though a lot of us are living in quiet desperation,’ he told me, adding that we’re all feeling patriotic now because of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee (notwithstanding the BBC’s woefully naff coverage of the river pageant).
Although Atkinson was in Cameron Mackintosh’s recent Drury Lane production of Oliver!, he hasn’t been in a straight dramatic play since The Sneeze, a collection of Chekhov plays a couple of decades ago. That, too, was produced by Codron — who was also the man behind Atkinson’s stage debut, a revue, back in 1981.
Codron told me he saw Atkinson on TV recently in a retrospective of Blackadder. ‘There was a shot of Rowan going up to a castle and it made me think of Simon Gray’s Quartermaine,’ said Codron.
Quartermaine’s Terms will start previews at Wyndham’s Theatre from January 23 to April 13. The production will tour before hitting the West End, calling at the Theatre Royal, Brighton from January 8 and the Theatre Royal, Bath from January 19.
James Corden is having the time of his life on Broadway, where his starring role in the National Theatre’s fabulous One Man, Two Guvnors is in the running for a best actor Tony.
He’s up against Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Willy Loman in the acclaimed revival of Death Of A Salesman.
If Corden somehow creates an upset on Sunday night, there’ll be the biggest British knees-up Broadway’s ever seen.