Local News

February 10, 2014

Movie captain comes to Whallonsburg

Subject of acclaimed film speaks in Whallonsburg

WHALLONSBURG — He has survived a famous pirate attack, seen his story turned into a movie and traveled the world as a merchant marine. 

But on a recent Sunday, Captain Richard Phillips spent a peaceful afternoon at the Whallonsburg Grange Hall.

He was there as a special guest of the Champlain Valley Film Society, which was screening the Oscar-nominated movie “Captain Phillips.” The movie is based on the 2009 hijacking of Phillips’s ship, the Maersk Alabama, by Somali pirates.

Afterwards, Phillips, who lives in Vermont, answered questions from the packed crowd.

He described the movie as largely accurate, but added, “It is a movie, and it also compresses five days to two hours.” 

He said that resulted in changes in time and scheduling. 

As for being portrayed by Tom Hanks, Phillips said, “I think Tom Hanks is a good actor. I’m not really impressed by actors, so I didn’t really care.”


Phillips did care about going back to life at sea, which he did 14 months after his ordeal.

In the intervening time, he had written his book and had dealings with Hollywood. He described his return to sea as “a relief.”

All but one of the crew members from that voyage have also returned to sea, Phillips said, adding that he had recently worked with his bosun from that time.

Some crew members have sued the shipping company, alleging that the ship was dangerously close to the Somali coast when the pirates attacked.

“I think that’s just the litigious nature of society today,” Phillips said.

He talked about some ironic aspects of his experience, as well as some dramatic ones.

“It was the first ship I’d been on that didn’t have weapons,” he said — although he had previously been on some ships where the only weapon was a pistol. He believes armed security forces provide advantages for cargo ships.

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