The Oscar Nominee, Barkhad Abdi, made his acting debut in the film Captain Phillips, a true life story about a hijacked ship off the Somalia coast, starring Oscar nominee and winner Tom Hanks. The 28-year-old from Somalia who auditioned with hundreds of other actors for the part had never acted in the past. He was working as a limo driver at the time of his audition. After the movie hit the theaters, Abdi’s life completely changed, but apparently his bank account did not change much after the film, or else it did not afford him the riches that Tom Hanks receives after starring in a successful blockbuster.
Abdi moved to Yemen shortly after his birth in Somalia. At age 14, Abdi moved to the United States with his family. They moved to the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood that was heavily populated with Somali immigrants. After graduating high school, Abdi got a job working for his brother’s limousine company. In 2011, Abdi decided to go to an open casting call being held in Minneapolis for the movie Captain Phillips, starring Tom Hanks. The Oscar nominee ended up winning the starring role as Abduwali Muse, the leader of the pirates who hijack and subsequently kidnap Tom Hanks’ character.
Bsarkhad Abdi was nominated Best Supporting Actor for the Screen Actors Guild Award, an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, and a Golden Globe Award. He won a BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actor. It has been two years since Abdi made Captain Phillips that he was paid a base pay by the Actors Screen Guild of $65,000. Since then, Abdi has found himself struggling to make ends meet and is now back to being employed by one of his brothers’ companies in Minneapolis.
Apparently, being nominated for an Oscar is not an instant rags to riches story for the up and coming actor, but more of rags to borrowed rags story for Bsarkhad Abdi. Sony Pictures paid his way during awards season by giving him a limo driver, lending him a tux for the award shows and putting him up in five-star hotels. Abdi opted for a hotel by the LAX airport to be closer to his friend who would drive him around for free instead.
Abdi’s next project is The Place That Hits the Sun, directed by Jim O’Hanlon and produced by Noel Pearson. The film is about the South African runner Willie Mtolo. The runner was born in 1964 and has run in over 23 marathons worldwide winning nine. The story will be based on the relationship between Mtolo and an unlikely friendship with a white bar owner named Ray de Vries. Abdi is also directing Ciyaalka Xaafada, a film about Somali-Americans living in Minneapolis. Abdi has also previously directed music videos.
If all goes well the Oscar nominated Barkhad Abdi’s story will go from not rags to borrowed rags, but a borrowed rags to a riches story as time goes on. The Somali born actor may not have a diverse or wide range of choices when it comes to roles, but with the right role and his natural ability as an actor, he is sure to have a successful career in the film industry. Although the Oscar nominee’s first role may not have brought on the riches, the accolades and award nominations have catapulted him into a top Hollywood contender. He will no doubt be bringing in a well deserved paychecks equivalent to his co-star, Tom Hanks.
By Christina Thompson