Actor Has Breakthrough Playing Boston Marathon Terrorist
How do you get into the mind of a madman? That’s what Themo Melikidze wondered when he was cast as terrorist Tamerlan Tsarnaev in the film Patriots Day. He also plays a terrorist in 24: Legacy, which premiered after the Super Bowl.
Patriots Day, starring Mark Wahlberg, shows how a peaceful day turned to horror at the Boston Marathon, when pressure-cooker bombs placed at the end of the course by Tsarnaev and his brother, Dzhokhar, exploded on April 15, 2013.
“My biggest challenge was getting to the state of the mind of the character, which is unreal — and there’s not really a way to get where he was,” Melikidze said by phone. “These two people were psychotic. They were absolutely disturbed in the head.”
The 24-year-old actor said he watched Youtube videos of terrorists cutting people’s heads off, which were awful to see. But much of the preparation came from meeting and training with Tsarnaev’s boxing coach, John Allen. He said that Allen mentioned that Tsarnaev “didn’t like the religion of Judaism.” The two also spoke about Tsarnaev’s role in recruiting his brother to join him on the deadly mission.
“We talked about it for so long” Melikdize recounted. “How did this kid go along with his brother? Dzokhar used to hang out at the gym. He wanted to show that he was a man. Tamerlan wasn’t a loved person. Dzokhar had more friends. At the end of the day, the younger brother wanted to be like him.”
Melikidze said that an intense moment occurred when they shot the scene of the bombing. One Boston police officer who had been at the scene of the real attacks came up close to him. “He (the officer) said, ‘I want to squash your head in. Good luck out there.’”
In the film, Melikidze gives a stirring performance, especially when his character threatens to kill his own brother during the attack. Shortly after the attacks, Rolling Stone had Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on the cover. Some said it romanticized terrorism, while others said it merely showed the human side of the young man.
Melikidze said that he “didn’t really agree with the cover,” but that he is proud of his work, despite having to play a bad guy.
“This is not how imagined to have my breakout role, but this is what it was,” he said.
He said that making Patriots Day was an experience that he won’t forget. “Nothing is more powerful than coming together and that is what we did,” he said. “That is why we say ‘Boston Strong.’”