Captain of the American cargo ship hijacked by Somali pirates four years
By Lisa Rathke
WILLISTON, Vt. — The captain of the American cargo ship hijacked by Somali pirates four years ago returned home from sea to another hero’s welcome — this time for a sneak peek of the Tom Hanks movie about the ordeal.
“Captain Phillips” got an early screening Tuesday night at a benefit in Richard Phillips’ home state of Vermont ahead of its national release in theaters on Oct. 11.
Phillips got a rousing standing ovation after he addressed the packed theater. He said the movie was entertainment but the benefit showing was an opportunity to raise money for a Champlain College scholarship in honor of a 2012 graduate who died. The event also gave him a chance to honor the military and say thanks to his crew and Vermont community, who he said helped him and his family in a time of need.
“The military — they are the true heroes in my story,” said Phillips, who was introduced by former Gov. Jim Douglas.
Hanks plays Phillips in Paul Greengrass’ docudrama adapted from the captain’s memoir about the April 2009 hijacking. The actor kept Phillips’ beard and eyeglasses in the movie, but he didn’t speak with the merchant ship captain’s strong New England accent.
Phillips spent five days as a hostage of Somali pirates on a lifeboat after the Maersk Alabama was hijacked. He was beaten, tied up and threatened before he was rescued days later by U.S. Navy SEALs, who shot three of the pirates.
Before the screening, he said he never felt empathy for the Somali pirates.
“That never entered my mind,” Phillips said in an interview. “We were always adversaries. I thought it was important to make sure we both knew we were adversaries in that. I thought that was important for me and my survival. There was no Stockholm syndrome.”
The sneak peak in Williston was a benefit for a fund created in honor of Sarah Elizabeth Ramsey, who died in June after being struck by a car in New York City. Ramsey had dated Phillips’ nephew.
The fund was established by Ramsey’s friends and family for third- and fourth-year marketing students who want to expand their professional and international experiences. The scholarship will be awarded each year. Ramsey spent a semester in Lima, Peru, during her junior year and completed an eight-week advertising internship in Shanghai, China, before graduating.
“Captain Phillips” is expected to be a major contender during Hollywood’s awards season. It debuted at the New York Film Festival on Friday.