The real "Captain Phillips"

Captain Richard Phillips, who commanded the freighter Maersk Alabama when it was highjacked by Somali pirates in 2009.
CBS News

(CBS News) Tom Hanks is winning praise for his film portrayal of "Captain Phillips," the American seized by Somali pirates four years ago off the coast of Africa. David Martin has the story of his rescue, and of the movie it inspired:

April 2009: An American ship captain was held at gunpoint by four Somali pirates inside a lifeboat. The U.S. Navy was on the scene, but Richard Phillips did not see how they could possibly rescue him.

"I did not foresee a good ending," Phillips told Martin, "because I saw the determination that the pirates had, and they weren't going to give me up. I was hoping for a rescue, but I thought the chances were slim-to-none that that would be successful."

In the new movie, "Captain Phillips," Tom Hanks plays the title character.

Director Paul Greengrass sees Phillips as the quintessential Everyman: "An ordinary man in an extraordinary situation, kidnapped on the high seas . . . Can the Navy get there in time? What's he going to do in a confined space with four men who are intent on taking him back [to Somalia], ransoming him to the highest bidder?

Hanks, as the captain of a giant container ship, is up against a pirate captain played by Barkhad Abdi, an unknown Somali-American with no real acting experience. It's the haves of the global economy versus the have-nots.

"At the heart of this film is Tom Hanks coming face-to-face with a captain from another side of the world, and that trial of strength is really what the film's all about," said Greengrass.

"When you describe it that way, it really makes you see how much you had riding on that pirate," said Martin.

"For sure, for sure!" the director laughed. "Luckily, he was good."


Captain Phillips (Tom Hanks) is confronted by the Somali pirates' leader, Muse (Barkhad Abdi), in the film, "Captain Phillips." Columbia Pictures

Abdi was born in Somalia but has lived in Minneapolis since he was 14. He and three buddies answered a casting call and ended up nearly stealing the show from a two-time Oscar winner.

"When we first came we all wanted to see Tom, but Paul didn't let us see him until the first scene," Abdi told Martin. "The first time I actually see Tom is the first time that I see him in the movie."

"They came through that door and they just had power and energy and intensity and commitment," said Greengrass.

Hanks recalled, "Boom! Next thing we know some very scary guys were pointing guns in our faces, screaming at us."

Greengrass said, "I could see in Tom's face he was in it for real."

"It was a pretty terrifying and exciting moment all at the same time," Hanks added. "I found them so convincing that my lower lip began to tremble a little bit and the hair was standing on the back of my neck. . . You cannot believe your eyes that someone is that skinny and that scary and that fast and has that much malevolence and seriousness in their eyes."

As Abdi -- playing the pirate named Muse - approached Hanks, he ad-libbed what were virtually the first words the two actors said to each other: "Look at me. I'm the captain now."

"I was just being the character and that came out. It's not something that I had in mind that I was going to say," said Abdi.

"I remember seeing Tom's expression," said Greengrass, "and I could see in it thinking, 'Oh, I've got a worthy antagonist here.' A real pirate, and a real actor."