In the early hours of Thursday morning, a stunned Barkhad Abdi woke to the news he had been nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.
Barkhad, a 28-year-old Somalian refugee, has won critical acclaim for his very first acting role, playing a Somali pirate in the movie Captain Phillips in which he stars opposite Hollywood A-lister Tom Hanks.
His success is all the most astonishing considering he was arrested and charged for drugs possession just over a year ago – and has been sentenced to jail time twice, MailOnline can today reveal.
Barkhad was born in Mogadishu and moved to Minneapolis in Minnesota when he was 14 – and was working as a limousine driver and also part-time at his brother’s cellphone store before he won the career-making role in Paul Greengrass’s movie.
But, as MailOnline has learned, Barkhad has also been charged with a number of offenses ranging from card fraud to giving a police officer a fraudulent name.
On August 18, 2012, Barkhad was arrested by Black Hawk County Sheriff’s County Office in Iowa, along with four others after cops were called to a disturbance on MM 60 near Gilberstville.
A police report from the time states: ‘On arrival, two subjects were holding another subject down on the ground after he had allegedly ingested a plant leave material called ‘Khat’ and drank a partial bottle of liquid Tylenol.
‘The combination of the two caused the subject to lose control of his faculties and attempt to jump out of a moving vehicle.
‘Deputies during their investigation found suspected Marijuana in the vehicle as well as a plastic baggie containing the suspected ‘Khat’.
Under his full name Barkhad Abdinasir Abdi, the actor and his friends were all charged with Possession of Marijuana and Possession of Khat and transported to the Black Hawk County Jail. Cops were assisted at the scene by fire departments, Waterloo Police K-9 Unit and the Tri-County Drug Task Force.
The charge was later dismissed by Iowa Court.
It was not the first time Barkhad had been in trouble with the law. On February 2, 2004, he was sentenced to 90 days in jail and given one year of probation for giving a police officer a false name of another person, and buying liquor aged under 21. He was also fined $1000.
It is unclear how much time he actually served in prison – believed to be Clay County Jail in Minnesota.
The following year, on June 1, 2005, Barkhad was charged with financial transaction card fraud and sentenced to 200 days in jail and two years probation, alongside being given a $500 fine. It is also unclear how much time he served behind bars, also at Clay County Jail.
It is all a far cry to where Barkhad now finds himself: hobnobbing with Hollywood’s A list as awards season has started with a vengeance.
He beat off stiff competition to win the role of real-life Somali pirate Abduwali Muse, who led the 2009 Maersk Alabama hijacking, an incident during which merchant mariner Captain Richard Phillips was taken hostage by pirates in the Indian Ocean.
Having won his role at an open casting call and barely realising his performance would be a hit, Barkhad even went back to working at his brother Guled Abdi’s T-Mobile shop in the 24 Mall in Minneapolis before the movie came out.
He now plans to move to Los Angeles to further his career next month and has taken on an acting agent.
On Sunday, Barkhad was nominated for best supporting actor at the Golden Globes – losing out to fellow Oscar hopeful Jared Leto for Dallas Buyer’s Club, but was the subject of jokes from hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.
Tina joked that ‘The Black List’ is ‘who’s invited to my room tonight – I’m talking to you, Somali pirates. ‘I am the captain now!’, using his signature line from the movie.
Amy added: ‘Before earning a Golden Globe nomination for his first ever acting role in Captain Phillips, Barkhad Abdi was working as a limousine driver in Minnesota. There’s such a beautiful life lesson here, everyone: Sleep with your limo driver tonight. Before he gets famous.’
On Thursday, he was nominated for an Oscar – acting’s highest honour and his brother Guled, 34, this week told Kare 11, an NBC affiliate: ‘He didn’t know the movie would go big. So he came back and worked with me a couple of months.
‘Growing up with him I knew he had potential and some talent, you know, but I never expected him to reach those places you know.’
Still stunned, Barkhad spoke of his excitement at being nominated for an Oscar, telling the Wall Street Journal at the Critics’ Choice Awards in Santa Monica, California, on Thursday night: ‘It was shocking, honestly – I was jumping up and down.’
The first-time actor is now up against Hollywood regulars Bradley Cooper, Michael Fassbender, Jared Leto, and Jonah Hill at the Academy Awards on March 2.
And he said: ‘My life’s been changing since this movie came out, and it’s just for the better. And it’s getting better day by day. Today’s the best you got.’
He told Entertainment Weekly: ‘I wasn’t sure of myself. I wasn’t a complete actor. I was just auditioning with no previous experience. Paul Greengrass gets all the credit, honestly. He’s the one that believed in me and pushed me and, any time that I messed up, he was the one that would find a way to make me understand it so I could be that character.
‘It’s been a really wild ride. Every time it gets bigger and bigger and bigger and now it’s an Oscar nomination. It’s just a little too big to comprehend. But that’s life. I’m just looking forward to the next adventure.’
Happy to post pictures of his new Hollywood chums, ranging from Reese Witherspoon to Kevin Space and Sacha Baron Cohen – and even happier to zoom around LA in a Ferrar, Barkhad still says he hasn’t gone all Hollywood and hired a stylist or acting coach.
As for Hanks’s omission in the best actor category, Barkhad said he was surprised, adding: ‘But it’s all right. It’s Tom, you know? He got it.’
A spokesman for Barkhad did not reply when contacted.