London-based Iraqi actor Lewis Alsamari plays the lead hijacker in Paul Greengrass’ 9/11 chiller “United 93” but don’t expect to see him on the red carpet at the film’s Tribeca Film Festival world premiere on Tuesday. Alsamari will be twiddling his thumbs at his north London home because the U.S. Embassy in London is unlikely to grant him a visa for entry to the U.S. due to a stint in the Iraqi army more than a decade ago.
“I think this was because I am still an Iraqi citizen and fought in the army — but that was only because I was forced to,” Alsamari told the Evening Standard newspaper.
Alsamari escaped from the Iraqi army in 1993 and stayed in neighboring Jordan until 1995. Since then Alsamari has lived and worked in the U.K. where he was granted asylum in 1998. He is applying for British citizenship.
The U.S. embassy in London said Lewis Alsamari had not given sufficient notice about his trip. A spokeswoman said officials would try their best to get Alsamari to New York on time but could give no guarantees.
Alsamari was granted a single-entry visa to the U.S. when “United 93” shot on location in New York.
Thesp has landed a number of U.K. TV parts — most notably in BBC spy series “Spooks” (known as “MI-5” Stateside when it aired on A&E) — but “United 93” is his breakthrough theatrical role.
“I still have not seen the film,” he said. “It would have been amazing to be in New York for the premiere.”