Magazine article Screen International

Paul Greengrass, Captain Phillips

Magazine article Screen International

Paul Greengrass, Captain Phillips

Article excerpt

Paul Greengrass was drawn to Captain Phillips not only to work with Tom Hanks, but also to pay tribute to his merchant marine father.

Paul Greengrass was not overly familiar with the story of the 2009 Maersk Alabama hijacking that would inspire Captain Phillips, but he wanted to be a part of Sony's movie as soon as he read Billy Ray's first draft.

"I loved the two characters, [Captain Richard] Phillips and [Somali pirate leader] Muse," says the UK director. "I loved the idea of working with Tom [Hanks].

"Also the world spoke to me because my dad was at sea all his life. He was a merchant mariner for a good chunk of his career and I always wanted to make a film of that world."

However, before he could move forward the story of Phillips' ordeal at the hands of four Somali pirates and his astonishing rescue by Navy SEALs, there had to be some changes.

"There were a number of really important decisions in the evolution of the film... one of which was in the evolution of the screenplay, because Richard Phillips' book is basically his first-person account interwoven with his wife's first-person account of her experiences.

"Billy's first draft really followed that paradigm... In the end we [decided to] keep the story on the ocean and that was [Hanks'] call and it was a very important one."

The shipping forecast

After the producers spent months negotiating with Maersk and the US Navy to use real ships on the ocean, production took place over spring and summer 2012 in Boston and Virginia Beach on the US east coast, Malta, London and Morocco doubling for Somalia.

It was often cramped on the boats, but it seems little fazes Greengrass.

"I like to rehearse, because what you are trying to do is figure out a way of joining all these [screenplay] pieces. Then there's this process of speaking to the real crew [on board the ships they used during filming] and asking what they would do in situations, which I call accommodating to reality."

Greengrass is famously a fan of reality. As a former director on the ITV current affairs show World In Action, he is renowned for research. Piracy and global shipping gave him plenty to sink his teeth into.

"The thing you have to understand about [merchant shipping] is the shipping lines underpin the global economy... Every single thing in this room, large amounts of what you are wearing, what you eat, everything, it all comes in container ships; it doesn't go by air. …

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