Capt. Richard Phillips speaks to the over 150 people in attendance at the Champlain Valley Film Society’s screening of “Captain Phillips,” Feb. 2.
The Whallonsburg Grange Hall was packed to capacity Feb. 2, not to watch two football teams do battle on the gridiron, but to get the chance to meet a Vermonter made famous in a most infamous way.
The Champlain Valley Film Society showed the Academy Award-nominated, “Captain Phillips,” a viewing that included the chance to hear from the film’s title character, Merchant Marine Capt. Richard Phillips, who was taken captive by Somali pirates off the coast of Africa in 2009.
“It is really a story of a man in peril; we all have those tough times and movies like this are good at showing that even in the toughest of times, at the end you can get through it,” Phillips said of the movie.
The captain spoke to over 150 attendees (organizers said they had to turn away over 40 more at the door), telling them about life on the high seas and the challenges that come with that life, including the threat of piracy.
“It is something that we have had to learn to deal with, like dealing with weather and break downs,” Phillips said, later joking, “I always tell people that pirating is the second oldest profession we have to deal with on a regular occasion.”
Since the 2009 kidnapping and subsequent rescue by the United States military, Phillips has found himself in the spotlight of celebrity, which again ramped up with the release of the movie which stars Tom Hanks portraying Phillips.
“I was sort of ignorant and naive as to what was going on back in the states and the incredible media blitz that was taking place while I was captive,” Phillips said. “That was surprising, but I think fame is what other people think about. I’m just a guy who tried to do his job to the best of his ability.”
Phillips said he rarely was on set for the filming of the movie and that the time he was there made him turn away from the profession.
“It’s not something I would want to do,” he said.
He also said the producers of the movie were very eager to see if he would be a fan of the movie once it was finished.
“They were worried about how I would react,” said Phillips. “My wife cries twice and jumps at the end. I thought it was a good movie.”
Phillips said the graphic nature of the violence portrayed against him in the movie did not bother him.
“I saw a lot worse than it portrays on the screen,” he said. “There were mock executions, beatings, things like that. They made it very clear they didn’t care about my life at any time.”
Phillips said he can also understand why the movie develops the roles of the pirates into near-sympathetic figures.
“They are people in the end, they are just in a terrible condition where there is very little hope,” he said. “When you are in those conditions, you can make decisions that are the wrong ones, and that is what these people did.”
Phillips continues to sail the seas as a Merchant Marine and ship captain. When he is not afloat, he spends his time talking to gatherings and organizations.
“I like to do things at local schools and give something back any time that I can.”
To watch video from Capt. Richard Phillips’ remarks at the Whallonsburg Grange Hall, visit here.