Real 'Captain Phillips' told Tom Hanks to gain weight, get better-looking to play him

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By Randee Dawn

When Tom Hanks is hired to play you on camera, you don’t quibble. And overall, the real-life merchant marine behind the new film “Captain Phillips” was pleased with how he’s portrayed. But he did have one piece of advice for the two-time Oscar winner.

“When I met him, I told him, if he is going to play me he’s gonna have to put on a little weight and get a little better looking,” Capt. Richard Phillips said to TODAY’s Matt Lauer Friday, before adding, “He did neither.”

But, Phillips, said, "He did a very good job."

Hanks visited Phillips in his Vermont home prior to shooting the tale, which recounts Phillips’ 2009 kidnapping by Somali pirates while captaining a cargo ship off the coast of Africa. When they met, the actor told Phillips that he didn’t want to hear the story again, though. “He read it,” Phillips said. “He just wanted to get an idea of the routine of the ships, the routine of myself at home.”

The end result? “It really did capture the stress and the tenseness,” said Phillips, who understands that Hollywood has to compress five days of events into a two-hour film. “I think they did a very good job in portraying what went on, and how fearful the time was.”

Not that life has been stress-free since: Shortly upon return, several crew members of the cargo ship Phillips was captaining when it was taken over by the pirates sued the shipping company. The suit is ongoing.

Phillips, who is not being sued personally, did not seem bothered by the suit. "We in the merchant marine deal with piracy all over the world," he said. "If you're going to be in the merchant marine, you will deal with piracy. ... It's always a concern."

But you can’t keep the captain away from the sea; as the film notes, Phillips has returned to work. “It’s a door that’s closed,” he said, telling Lauer that watching the film did not awaken bad memories. “It’s been four years, and I’ve pretty much put it behind me.”

"Captain Phillips" opens in theaters Oct. 11.