On Friday evening, Examiner.com was on the scene at the opening night of the New York Film Festival for the world premiere of the Paul Greengrass directed "Captain Phillips" starring Tom Hanks. The Columbia Pictures film hits theaters on October 11, 2013. The film recounts the true story of Richard Phillips, former captain of the MV Maersk Alabama, who was held hostage by Somali pirates during the cargo ship's hijacking in April 2009. Tom Hanks told reporters that he first heard about the original story "only from reading the papers, I was aware that a guy got kidnapped and I was aware that they rescued him that's it." They filmed in Malta, London and Norfolk, Virginia. When asked why they brought the film to NYFF, Hanks said, "The race is on and we didn't play Toronto!"
Screenplay writer Billy Ray adapted script from Captain Phillips personal account "A Captain's Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS, and Dangerous Days at Sea." Ray is probably best known for co-writing "The Hunger Games" screenplay.
Check out what Ray told reporters on the red carpet:
Q: How did you get involved with the project?
Ray: Well, the rights to the book were owned by Sony and it was an open job and it was something I wanted very, very badly so I went after it and I was lucky enough to get it.
Q: Why did you want it so badly?
Ray: You don't find true stories like this very often. Usually with true stories you have to do a great deal of invention to turn them into movies and in this case the story itself had such drama and such tension and such politics...great action. It had everything and I didn't have to invent any of it.
Q: Did you collaborate with the captain?
Ray: I spent a lot of time talking to the captain and when I was writing it I had access to him whenever I needed it either by phone or by e-mail. I couldn't and wouldn't have written the movie if I didn't have access to the real guy.
Q: Why do you think Tom Hanks is the perfect lead?
Ray: What I can tell you is from the time I started writing he was the only actor I had in my head. He was only the guy that I could imagine playing the part. He was the dream actor for the part and then we got him. I couldn't feel more blessed.
Q: What do you love about writing action-thrillers?
Ray: I love writing great stories and I don't really care what genres they are. This was a great story with a great character it the center of it.
Q: What was it like collaborating with Paul Greengrass?
Ray: Well, I think Paul's a genius. It was great to with him. He knew how to bring out the best in me just like how he can bring out the best in his actors. There's a dynamism - a kinetic quality to the way he makes movies and that coupled with this story, I had a feeling it'd be through the roof and it is.
Q: What would you say the biggest challenge was with writing the film?
Ray: I think the biggest challenge probably would be I wanted to do honor to the behavior of these men, these merchant mariners who had survived this thing that I think would have killed me. I wanted to make sure that we shone a light on them that was appropriate with the dignity with which they carried themselves and I'm confident that we did.
Q: What surprised me about this film is how sympathetic I felt toward the pirates.
Ray: From the beginning we were very determined that we didn't want cardboard bad guys. That's just not good writing. You always want to dimentionalize your characters whenever possible, whether they're good guys or bad guys. You always want them to look like full, actualized human beings. Not so much that audiences can sympathize, but so that audiences can understand and maybe recognize a piece of human behavior in those characters and that was very important to me. And very important to Paul and he went out and got it.
Q: What are you doing next?
Ray: I'm jumping into television.
Q: What are you working on?
Ray: I'm gonna be adapting the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel "The Last Tycoon" as a series...There was a movie made in the 70's, Robert DeNiro starred in it. But this will be television...The book is spectacular and we're gonna have years to tell the story, we're going to be able to tell it like it's a novel and we get to write that novel. Fitzgerald died when he was writing it and we get to finish it for him. It's a great opportunity.