Earlier today we reviewed Captain Phillips following its world premiere at the 2013 New York Film Festival. Here's a brief snippet:
"All the usual phrases apply: white-knuckling, heart-pounding, breath-stopping -- but, until you've sat through all 134 minutes, you won't quite understand what it means to be physically exhausted by a movie. This is immersive filmmaking at its finest -- a true story brought to life with such unrelenting tension and meticulous craft that it's hard not to cry once the credits roll, solely out of relief for your clenched muscles and gritted teeth."
You've read our review, now watch a new trailer for the film below. Then, stick around for four things we learned about the film from its postpremiere Q&A.
The film had its world premiere at the 51st New York Film Festival this past Friday, with Paul Greengrass, Tom Hanks and Barkhad Abdi in attendance for a Q&A after a screening for critics. Here are a few things we learned (spoilers below if you’re unfamiliar with the real story):
How Hanks Prepared the Real Captain Phillips for Artistic License
"I read his book [A Captain's Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS, and Dangerous Days at Sea] prior to reading the screenplay and I did get together with him on two occasions," said Hanks. "I explained to him, 'I will say things you never said and I will be places you never were, but if we do this right thematically we will be spot on.' It's a very environmental movie - shooting it as we did on more or less an identical ship to the Alabama and within some very small confines, so I think that the task of folding ourselves into Paul's good hands is always to be true to the motivations of everybody that's involved. We were always searching for that combination of procedure and behavior that were not just reminiscent but were also very reflective of what really happened – and that's tough when you're telling nonfiction entertainment."
Interviews with Journalists Taught Hanks How Not to Interview Phillips
"You have to load up with an awful lot of facts. You've gotta read, you've gotta look at video, you've gotta listen to stuff,” said Hanks. “But there's always some sort of detail that makes the final tumbler lock into place. I saw Rich and [his wife] Andrea on a couple of occasions, and you don't want to be an idiot, you don't want to ask, 'What was it like? How were you feeling? Are you a hero?' You don't ask questions like most journalists do. Oh yeah, cheap shot folks but listen: be on my end one of these days and see how it goes! Everyone says, 'You just keep giving the same answers!' Well, they are the same questions!"
"But Andrea said something that was quite interesting. I asked, 'Do you ever visit Rich on the ships?’ She said, 'I used to, but it's no fun - Rich is a completely different human being when he's on board, when he's on the job.' He's very easygoing - I would almost describe him as happy-go-lucky and funny, but on board the ship it is just always serious. It's always serious work, and that was the tumbler for me.”
There’s Not Enough Dramamine in the World When You Shoot an Entire Film on Water
Seasickness is clearly an occupational hazard when you sign up for a film like Captain Phillips, but Abdi definitely won the award for bravest crew member when he admitted he accepted the role even though, “I didn't even know how to swim!” He admitted, “We did a lot of practice and at times I was seasick - down in the lifeboat, it was not that good."
"There was one day when we were getting shots in the lifeboat on the actual water in Malta and everybody who was not an actor in the lifeboat ended up vomiting,” said Hanks. "First, the focus puller disappeared, then Barry [Ackroyd] disappeared, and then the sound mixer who was just in the back holding the boom, he made a rush to it. We got to just sit down and close our eyes, but those guys actually had to work."
"I was on the camera boat right next door,” recalled Greengrass. “And I had a walkie-talkie and a message came through, 'We've got a problem over here.' I said, 'What's the problem?' 'Uhhh - the focus puller's just been sick all over Tom.' [pause] 'Uhhh - so's Barry.' 'I said, "How's Tom?'" 'Oh, he's fine!'”
The Incredible Last Scene That Almost Never Was
We must repeat that the below is spoiler filled, but it’s also fascinating. The scene in which Captain Phillips is evaluated by a medical crew after his ordeal is incredibly raw and emotional – and it wasn’t even written into the script. We’ll let Hanks take it away.
"It’s a moment like I’ve never had making films,” said Hanks. “It’s not on the page at all… we had a scene that was sort of like what happened there and it was okay, it worked fine and we were on schedule. We had the actual captain of the Bainbridge with us when we were shooting, and Paul said, 'Well what did you do with Phillips when you first got him on board?' And the captain said, 'Well, he was a mess, so the first thing we did is we took him to the infirmary to get him cleaned up.' And Paul said, 'Well, why don't we go have a look at the infirmary?' He had never been in there, it was not part of it, it wasn't on the schedule, it hadn't been scouted, it wasn't lit. We went down there and we had the actual crew of the ship that we were shooting on… and Paul said, 'Well should we give it a try?'… We shot it four or five times. And really, to me, what was extraordinary about it is Paul's willingness to see that as a possibility. … But the other side of it is we literally had the crew of the infirmary - they didn't know they were going to be in a movie that day! And here they are with cameras on them. … We did the first take, I remember it completely falling apart, because these people had never been in a movie, and they could not get past the horrible self-consciousness of everything that was going on around them. But we tried it again… and at that point, those people were really quite amazing.”
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