Capt. Richard Phillips was taken hostage by pirates in 2009. His book about the ordeal was made into a movie starring Tom Hanks.
C.J.: Capt. Phillips leaves the acting to the actors
- Article by: C.J.
- Star Tribune
- January 18, 2014 - 10:19 PM
Capt. Richard Phillips is positive he wasn’t cut out to be an actor.
The real skipper of the Maersk Alabama who was taken hostage by Somali pirates and rescued by Navy SEALs recently spoke at St. Louis Park’s Beth El Synagogue about his ordeal, retold in a movie for which Tom Hanks didn’t receive a 2014 Oscar nod. During my startribune.com/video Phillips, however, mentioned a man from the Twin Cities who deserved lots of nominations, and that actor did get recognized by Oscar.
“I only went down [to] the set for a scene Catherine Keener was in at a place they were showing as my house,” Phillips told me. “I was there three, four hours. They did the same scene over and over and over. It never even made it [into the movie]. It was very dull. I could never be an actor. They did the same scene for three hours.”
The movie was based on his book, “A Captain’s Duty,” and even though some creative license was taken, Phillips said that’s fine with him, for reasons you’ll read about here.
Q Who’s better-looking in drag, you or Tom Hanks?
A I look better always. (Sustained laughter.)
Q How many times have you seen the movie?
A About two-and-a-half times. That’s enough, isn’t it?
Q Well, you lived it.
A “Saving Private Ryan,” another Tom Hanks movie, and “Das Boot” — those are the only movies I see more than once.
Q Is it difficult to watch a portrayal of such a frightening incident in your life?
A Not for me, because the incident was even more frightening than you see it in the movie. It was worse than what you see. I was more looking at the quality of the movie.
Q Is there anything you would have left in the movie that was excluded?
A I’m not a producer. I’m a sea captain and I hate when people come onto my ship telling me what to do, so … I don’t know about that. I think some of the home-life connection would have been good, but it would have interfered with what the director was doing. He boiled it down, man-in-peril-on-the-sea and did a good job.
Q Does the movie make you second-guess anything you did?
A No, not at all.
Q Was there anything in your training that prepared you for what you went through?
A Oh yeah, in all our trainings, even if it had nothing to do with security and piracy.
Q Was that moment, when you wrote a note to your wife because you thought these pirates were going to kill you, the only time you have ever thought you were looking at death?
A I really didn’t write. There was no pencil and paper in the lifeboat. I did it in my mind. There’ve been a few other times there was a thought, but nothing that was as close as this.
Q Was it a blow to your body or head that hurt more?
A It was my head because I was being hit by the pistol. I was bleeding. As I say in my book, my sister hits harder than them. It wasn’t really that bad.
Q Did you ever imagine Minnesota Somalis would be cast in the pirate roles?
A It was a strange irony where they got them. And they did a great job. They weren’t actors. Barkhad Abdi especially should get some [nominations]. [And Abdi did.]
Q Would you consider the meals served on the ship fine dining?
A ON MY SHIPS? It all depends on the person in charge, the steward or the cook. The food in the boxes [doesn’t] change; the food on the table does.
Q Are the containers normally put on the ship for transport as colorful as they were in the movie or were they dressed up for the shoot?
A They might have taken some of the rust spots out of them. That’s the way the containers are, different companies. They’re all different colors. If you drive out on your highway, look at the trucks. Most of them probably came from a ship. They’re intermodal, going from train to truck to ship.
Interviews are edited. C.J. can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and seen on Fox 9’s “Buzz.”
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