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Rookie Mpls. Actor Now An Oscar Contender In 'Captain Phillips'

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A rookie actor from the Twin Cities -- who is relatively unknown right now -- is about to become very famous starting next week.

Barkhad Abdi was chosen as a lead actor in the latest Tom Hanks movie, Captain Phillips. It's about the young Somali pirates who overtook an American-based cargo ship in 2009, a hostage ordeal that gripped the nation for days.

When Sony Pictures set out to tell the story, it sent the casting director to Minneapolis, home of the largest Somali immigrant population in the U.S. At the time, Abdi was working as a limo driver and had never acted before.

Now, his picture is on the cover of The Hollywood Reporter, next to Hanks. In a video interview posted on the magazine's website, Hanks asked Abdi how he got the part.

"I was at my friend's house and watching local TV," Abdi said, "and they came to Minneapolis – casting call, Tom Hanks movie."

The magazine's cover headline describes Abdi as "one of the skinniest, scariest looking human beings on the planet."

He is 28 years old, playing 18-year-old Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse, who led the band of young pirates aboard that ship.

Two weeks ago, Variety released its list of contenders for Best Supporting Actor, and Abdi was on that list.

A critic for Vibe says Abdi displays an acting range from maniacal to empathetic.

The movie premieres Friday, Oct. 11.

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