TODAY   |  October 11, 2013

Captain Phillips: Tom Hanks did ‘good job’ as me

Richard Phillips, the captain of the merchant ship that was hijacked by Somali pirates in 2009, tells TODAY’s Matt Lauer that the on-screen depiction of his ordeal accurately captures the stress and tension he felt while being held.

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> "captain phillips ." it opens in theaters today. it's about the captain and crew of a u.s. owned merchant ship taken hostage by somali pirates . the movie is based on the true story . we'll talk to the real captain phillips in a morning. but first his story.

>> reporter: an attempted hijacking that turned into a hostage situation .

>> even for somali pirates this was a brazen attack on a u.s. flag ship.

>> reporter: the crew of the maersk alabama cargo ship fought back against pirates 240 miles off the coast of somalia . the pirates kidnapped the ship's captain, richard phillips fleeing in a lifeboat.

>> it's the safety of the captain.

>> reporter: for nearly five days he was captive at gun point by four so mali teens in an enclosed boat in the indian ocean until u.s. navy s.e.a.l.s managed to kill three of the four pirates in a daring rescue operation .

>> what do you remember?

>> being very scared and diving for the bottom of the deck and just getting as low as i could.

>> reporter: some crew members later fired a lawsuit against the shipping company alleging phillips ignored warnings of high pirate activity in the area steering the vessel far closer than the advised 600 miles away from the coast. with that case still pending, it's tom hanks who plays captain phillips in the movie that hits theaters today.

>> the navy isn't going to let you win. they can't let you win.

>> captain richard phillips , good morning.

>> good morning. how are you doing?

>> good. it's been awhile.

>> it has.

>> doing okay?

>> yes, very well.

>> it has to be a weird experience. it's based on this episode in your life. a traumatic episode. did it capture it?

>> it did capture the stress and intenseness on the ship with the pirates and the lifeboat and in the eyes of tom hanks and the pirate you can see the stress going on.

>> when we spoke a couple of days after you got back to vermont after being rescued in 2009 there was a lot you didn't want to talk about because it was so traumatic and so fresh and there were imagines you were trying to get out of your head. as you watch this movie again, does it bring those back inevitably.

>> it's not a door that's closed. it's been four years and i pretty much put it behind me.

>> obviously, this is a hollywood movie .

>> yeah.

>> so they take some poetic license with certain things. what's wrong in the movie? what's different as opposed to the way it happened?

>> we all have to compress five days into two hours for a movie is tough. there's a lot of scheduling and things that couldn't be put in but i think they did a very good job in portraying what went on and how fearful the time was.

>> the movie begins in somalia and we get to see a little bit of the lives the would be pirates are leading before they decide to take to the sea and hijack the maersk alabama. do you think this say more sympathetic view of the pirates or forces some understanding of their circumstances?

>> well, they are people. even though i believe they made the wrong choice and they are humanized as they should be. they are people, as i said. but i think it just gives the viewer a background of where they're coming from.

>> they're played brilliantly by guys from minneapolis who are somalis that never acted before and you were played by tom hanks . your wife to me in 2009 joked that if they ever made a movie about this episode she wanted george clooney to play you.

>> she did.

>> you got tom hanks , instead. how did he do?

>> he came up to visit me at my house in vermont a few times and i told him he was going to have to put on a little weight and get better looking. he did neither but did a good job.

>> he drives up to your house in vermont . what kinds of things did he want to know about you?

>> he just wanted to get an idea of the routine on the ships, the routine of myself at home and leaving my family and going back to work and vice versa . some vocabulary on the ship. he really just wanted a gist of that.

>> something else swirling around the story is there's a lawsuit now filed by nine of your crew members. they're not suing you but they're suing the owners of the ship saying that you put them in harms way. that you went too close to the shore and ignored warnings after pirate activity. are you worried about it?

>> i believe 6 of the crew are still suing. it's been on for four years. within weeks of coming home the suit was initiated. and they are suing the company. but you have to understand, we deal with piracy all over the world. philippines, east west coast of africa and south america and nigeria is worse than somalia ever is.

>> you're back at sea. have you entered the places and is the threat of hijacking constantly in your mind?

>> you will deal with piracy. merchant marine versus to deal with piracy. it's always a concern.

>> obviously this movie is getting a lot of talk. there's talk about a possible academy award nomination for the film and for tom hanks . we are going to see you on the red carpet ?

>> hopefully i won't.

>> good to see you as always.

>> thank you, matt.

>> "captain phillips " hits theaters today.