When Tom Hanks first encountered his "Captain Phillips" co-stars Barkhad Abdi, Faysal Ahmed, Mahat M. Ali and Barkhad Abdirahman, he didn't get to shake their hands or exchange pleasantries; instead, he found himself staring down the barrels of their AK-47s.
The Somali actors play the quartet of pirates who hijack the cargo ship Maersk Alabama in the Paul Greengrass-directed thriller based on a real incident in 2009. At the Envelope Screening Series, Hanks, who plays the title role, said Greengrass purposely kept the Somali actors away from Hanks and the rest of the cast before filming in order to mirror the real-life dynamic of the surprise attack.
"We didn't know that [Greengrass] was deliberately doing that," Hanks said. "All of us — Michael Chernus and Chris Mulkey, a few others of us who were on board the ship who were the crew of the Maersk Alabama — figured it out a couple of weeks in. It was like, 'You know, I don't think we're going to meet those guys.' We haven't seen them at the hotel, we haven't had a party where it's like, 'Hey, good to meet you. Looking forward to you beating the ... out of me. Looking forward to that.'"
Hanks continued: "We were out miles and miles off the coast of Malta going back and forth in the ship … and we could see them on the horizon in these little skiffs, being either trained or shooting second unit —we didn't know what. But we did not know what they looked like until the day they came and they stormed the bridge, as they did of the Maersk Alabama."
The first scene, Hanks said, "was very loud, and there were explosions going on, and Barkhad [Abdi] and three of the other skinniest, scariest human beings on the planet came on, and it did raise the hair on the back of our necks. It was terrifying. They did not look like nice guys. And we had to do it three or four times in that way without ever getting to the point of, 'All right, now we're going to move on to the next shot.' And when that happened, it was kind of like, 'Hey, man, good to work with you.'"
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