What do you do when the subject of your movie has to go back to work in the real world? Tom Hanks and Sony Skyped in the real Richard Phillips for last night’s L.A. premiere of “Captain Phillips” at the Academy. The VIP crowd–including Michael Mann, Lou Diamond Phillips, Stephen Merchant who came with John Krasinski, Harry Hamlin, Avatar Editor Stephen Rivkin and numerous Hollywood insiders, agents etc–loved it. The talk floating at the screening is that this film will be a major contender for the award season. Tom Hanks could easily garner his third Oscar for his searing portrayal of Captain Phillips.
Director Paul Greengrass introduced the film and said that, “It was physically pretty arduous out there on the ocean. But it also was an absolute pleasure. ” Greengrass went on to thank “our fearless leader Scott Rudin, Producers Michael DeLuca and Dana Brunetti, screenwriter Billy Ray, casting director Francine Maisler and another talented newcomer who I think might have a future in this business, Tom Hanks.”
Tom explained that “the real Captain Phillips can’t be here, he’s going back out to sea but through the wonders of Skype, here he is.” A huge screen then showed Captain Phillips who quipped, “You guys look awfully small.” Greengrass said to Phillips: “We hope we told the story of what you went through well,” Phillips replied. “You did a great job Paul.” The Captain joked: “Tom, well he did a good job.” Tom, ever the comedian, then tried to arrange the Skype camera so Captain Phillips could see the film to no avail.
At the reception after, I spoke with Barkhad Abdi, the Somalia native who, in his first role, goes head to head with Hanks as the Captain of the Somali Pirates. He’s just spectacular. He told us, “I grew up in Somalia. I came here to Minneapolis, when I was 15. They were auditioning at a gym by my home. I never acted before. Tom was the best, hardworking and humble.” I told him he might get a nomination out of this. Is he going to stay in acting? Barkhad replied, “Well it seems that I’m pretty good at it, so I want to.”
I also spoke to Faysal Ahmed, who plays the psychotic Somali pirate. Faysal, whose parents are from Somalia, but he was raised in Yemen till he was 14 then also moved to Minneapolis. Faysal told me, “I accidentally hit Tom when we were doing a scene in the lifeboat. It was such a small space, Tom was sitting, I’m a big guy and it was a mistake. I grazed him really on the face, but still. I felt horrible. Tom was so cool about it. He went over to me and told me to move past it, that he was fine and it was no big deal. That’s how cool Tom was the entire time to the cast and crew.”
When I told Greengrass the film was unrelenting in its thrill aspect–his expertise–he told me, “That was my intent. It was a tough, tough shoot-but everyone handled it so well.” Altogether, Greengrass filmed for 60 hours on the high seas. Not easy.
One of the unexpected highlights was chatting with the incomparable opera singer Renee Fleming who with her manager, Untitled’s powerhouse Dannielle Thomas. Lovely Renee told me she loved the film and was out in LA for movie and television meetings. She’s also planning to see the Los Angeles Opera’s production of Carmen with Chairman Of The Board no less. She also told us she’d be in LA in the spring to do Adnre Previn’s opera of “A Streetcar Named Desire.” We here in LA can’t wait for that!”