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The Crazy-but-True Story Behind Tom Hanks’s New Film ‘Captain Phillips’

Movie Talk
7 August 2013
Tom Hanks, Capt. Phillips
Tom Hanks, Capt. Phillips

They had AK-47s. But he had his wits.

What sounds like the tagline for the next "Bourne" sequel is cargo ship captain Richard Phillips's real life experience of survival after being captured by desperate Somali pirates.

The latest trailer for "Captain Phillips," debuting exclusively here on Yahoo! Movies, has Tom Hanks showing us how unbelievable the ordeal that happened just four years ago on the high seas really was — and what the real Capt. Phillips had to do to not only survive, but to also save his crew.

Watch Exclusive Trailer Premiere for 'Captain Phillips':

When armed Somali pirates hijacked an ocean freighter in the spring of 2009, it dominated news coverage. Despite efforts by the 20-person crew to keep the pirates off the ship, they got on board. It's a bad scenario that the ship's captain and crew had prepared for — in fact, they ran a drill just a day prior.

Some quick thinking helped stem some horrific outcomes: The crew disabled the ship's systems, blocking any chance the Somalis could drive the ship away. Some 14 crew members were stowed away in a safe room — their whereabouts hidden from the pirates.

Eventually negotiations between the remaining crew members and the pirates went nowhere. Capt. Phillips sprung into action, offering himself up as a hostage in order to save his remaining team. The pirates took him at gunpoint and they exited the ship, 30 miles off the Somali coast, inside a small, orange submarine-shaped lifeboat.

[Related: Trailer for 'Captain Phillips' Makes Another Hero Out of Hanks]

It was a tense four days Phillips and the pirates spent inside the tiny confines of the 18-foot lifeboat. And it got violent. "They took me aboard and they were not happy. Punches and slaps to the head, hitting me with their pistol and their gun. Trussing me up very tight; so tight I still have some scars and numbness today," Phillips has said. But he vowed not to give up. "If I gave up I'd be a hostage, just something they could ransom or murder. If I didn't give up, I could play mind games with them as they were playing with me."

While Phillips kept playing mental chess to stay alive, Navy SEAL snipers were locked into position, ready to take out the Somalis. But they didn't have clearance from a cautious White House to do so. Two clear chances to get the Somalis — in a shoot-to-kill scenario — were blocked by President Obama. The White House first needed to know that Phillips's life was in eminent danger before they felt justified green-lighting the play.

Eventually, after the pirates made repeated threats to negotiators that they intended to kill Phillips, the three remaining Somalis on board the lifeboat were killed by the SEALs and the captain was rescued. A fourth member of the raiding party surrendered.

"I share the country's admiration for the bravery of Captain Phillips and his selfless concern for his crew," President Obama said after all was said and done. "His courage is a model for all Americans."

But Phillips was quick to deflect the glory, saying, "The real heroes are the Navy, the SEALs, those who have brought me home."

"Captain Phillips," directed by Paul Greengrass ("The Bourne Ultimatum," "United 93") and also starring Catherine Keener, Max Martini, and John Magaro opens everywhere on October 11.

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