LONDON, UK – January's academy award nominations included many surprises, though none bigger than the out-of-left-field nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Ricky Sekhon was nominated for his work playing wanted terrorist Osama bin Laden in the movie Zero Dark Thirty.
While other actors, such as Daniel Day Lewis and Shia Labeouf, are well known for their extreme method acting, novice Sekhon took it to a new level: getting in touch with his inner-terrorist by founding an active al Qaeda cell and blowing up a bus station in Pakistan.
"In hindsight it was a stroke of genius," Sekhon told Duffel Blog from his cell in Guantanamo Bay. "So many terrorists you see on camera are one-dimensional cardboard cutouts, and I just didn't want that to be me."
Ironically Sekhon, a 29-year-old Sikh, said he knew almost nothing about radical Islam or terrorism before taking his role. "The casting call just said 'Six foot plus, swarthy complexion, bearded. Individuals frequently stopped at airports will receive preference.'"
To prepare for the role, Sekhon flew to Karachi, Pakistan. There, he quickly met a group of actual Al Qaeda terrorists who kidnapped him straight out of passport control. While they initially planned on cutting his throat for being an apostate Sikh, in between beatings Sekhon gradually persuaded them to help him prepare for the role.
The very next day he produced his first video, declaring the formation of the Second Unit Martyrs Battalion of Sound Stage 5.
According to Sekhon, playing a terrorist mastermind was nowhere near what he expected.
"In the movies these guys all have supermodels for henchmen, nuclear devices, secret mountain-top lairs, but it's all bullshit. You know what I spent all my time doing? Raising money and sitting through meetings."
He pantomimed talking on the phone: "Hello, is this Major General Qassim Suleimani? I have an exciting once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to blow up an Israeli embassy and all it will cost you is [click] ... hello? hello?" He then grumbled, "Every. . .damn. . .day."
Finally, after two months Sekhon decided he had to commit an actual terrorist act, both to establish some "street cred" with his men, and because Kathryn Bigelow was anxious to start shooting.
"They told me, 'No no no, that's not how it works!' You just go out and make a video of yourself firing a machine gun and then we edit it to make you look like a super badass.' I think I can see why so many of these guys look pissed off in their videos."
Under the advice from studio lawyers, the Second Unit Martyrs Battalion decided to downgrade their planned attack on the Aiwan-e-Sadr presidential palace to an attack on a bus stop on Dr. Daud Pota Road at 3am on a Sunday.
While the attack ultimately caused superficial damage and no injuries, Sekhon was targeted shortly thereafter by US Special Forces who incorrectly believed he was Al Qaeda's new second-in-command.
"That scene where the SEALs come into the room and shoot me? That was real, those were real bullets, I'm really getting shot," Sekhon said, proudly displaying several scars on his chest.
Sekhon is already working on his next project, "Escape from Guantanamo Bay."