The newest Tom Hanks film, Captain Phillips, premiered in London yesterday and is to hit cinemas nationwide tomorrow Friday 11. While most film fans will be champing at the bit to see Hanks in his latest role, there will be some who want to see the four Somali pirates in the film. The four are neophyte film actors, this is their first film, and one of these first time actors has blown Hanks right off the screen.
The film’s producers decided to zoom in on Minneapolis when searching for “authentic” Somali actors. Because according to casting director Debbie DeLisi the city is home to the biggest population of Somalis in the United States. Apparently the last census, showed that around 25,000 Somalis call Minnesota home, although “unofficial” sources state that the actual number is much higher.
DeLisi held a casting call in Minneapolis along with another held in Ohio and they received submissions from the UK and Somalia itself. In total 700 hopeful actors turned up at the Minneapolis audition where open auditions were held. All the auditions were filmed and uploaded so that the main casting director could make the final decision.
At the end of the long process four men were chosen and incredibly, they knew each other. The men were cast as the Somali pirates who board Captain Phillips’ ship. The men, Barkhad Abdi; Faysal Ahmed; Mahat M. Ali; and Barkhad Abdirahman attended the “open” casting call at the Brian Coyle Community Center.
All the men gave admirable performances in their first film, but it was Barkhad Abdi, who played the pirate’s leader Muse, that really stepped up to the plate and knocked it out of the park. The 28 year-old former limousine driver did such a good job in the film that word is spreading that he may just get a best supporting actor nomination for his work.
But Abdi says that his performance was helped by Hanks and director Paul Greengrass who helped him develop the natural born actor hidden within himself. Greengrass kept all the Somali actors away from Tom Hanks and his “crew” to make their initial meeting as surprising as possible. The two men did a good job helping the first time actor as he blew Tom off the screen
Abdi also said that Hanks motivated him and helped the novice actor to “get the part out.” The Muse actor spoke to Matt Lauer on the Today Show and Lauer told him that the new actor stole the show from Hanks. Abdi confessed to Matt that when cast, he was a “little scared” about the whole thing and could not wait to meet Tom Hanks.
As Muse, the pirate’s leader, he showed that his character was following a destiny that he did not want. Abdi got so into his role that he adlibbed the line that most audiences will remember after the film ends. He tells Hanks’ character to look at him, he is the “captain now” as he and his fellow pirates take over the ship.
Abdi told Lauer that the adlib came naturally because he “became” the character of Muse, the man who is most torn by his role as pirate leader.
The film, starring Tom Hanks, is based on the true story of the real Captain Richard Phillips who was in charge of an American cargo ship in 2009. The ship was just off the Horn of Africa when pirates boarded her and took Phillips hostage. In reality the incident was ended by Navy sharpshooters who dispatched three of the pirates who were with the captain.
Barkhad Abdi has gone back to work in his “real” job, but he remembers working with Tom Hanks as being a relaxed and pleasurable experience. He says that the award winning actor was humble and always joking around. Abdi also revealed that this new fame was a little scary, but great, and that he had always been a “private person” before filming.
Abdi enjoyed the work and has said that he wants to do some more acting. He also enjoyed the challenge of having to scare a star that he admired in scenes where the two men interacted. He said that he understood the “weight of it.”
He also said that 57 year-old Oscar winning actor was all the pirates’ mentor. He helped them all to find their feet in the film. So much so, that the first time actor actually blew Tom Hanks off the screen in their introductory scene together. Captain Phillips opens tomorrow Friday 11.
By Michael Smith