• Tue, Oct 15 - 1:46 pm ET

The Real Captain Phillips Crew Has A Big Issue With Him Being Called A Hero

The real life Captain Richard Phillips and Tom HanksMy favorite thing after seeing a movie that’s based on a real life story is coming home to read about it, so I’m a pretty big fan of Captain Phillips. A lot of the time, I feel like movies take one tiny piece of a true story and extrapolate the rest, and then you can never get any more information about it other than what was in the movie, which is really frustrating. I mean, I came home after seeing The Impossible, about the family that survived the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami really jazzed up, wanting to know more about them…and then there was practically nothing out there about it on the internet. Really annoying.

But we definitely don’t have that problem with Captain Phillips, because with every day that passes since its release, more information is being publicized about the way the movie deviates from the real story. Last week we learned that it took more than three ‘perfect kill shots’ to eliminate the terrorists in the lifeboat, and that $30,000 mysteriously went missing, and this week we hear that the crew of the actual Maersk Alabama, that was taken hostage in April 2009 has some problems with the story. Namely that they’re really uncomfortable with the portrayal of Captain Richard Phillips as a hero. A crew member spoke to the New York Post on the condition of anonymity and said:

 “Phillips wasn’t the big leader like he is in the movie. No one wants to sail with him.”

According to this man, Captain Phillips has a reputation for being sullen and self-righteous. And more than that, instead of putting his life and safety on the line to protect his crew, as Tom Hanks depicts him in the movie, this crew member alleges that his behavior actually put the ship and its crew in more danger. And eleven members of the ship’s believe this so fervently that they’re actually bringing a $50 million suit against the shipping company, alleging ‘willful, wanton and conscious disregard for their safety.’ Here are some of their claims, just to keep you up-to-date.

  • The set plan if a ship is attacked by pirates is to turn off all the lights and for the crew to lock themselves below decks, but Captain Phillips rejected this because it wasn’t his plan.
  • In the three week period leading up to the attack, sixteen container ships had been boarded by pirates, and as a result, seven emails were sent recommending ships stay 600 miles off the Somali coast. Captain Phillips acknowledged he received said emails, but when attacked, his ship was only 240 miles from shore. He later rounded that number up to 300.
  • A chart was created mapping all the pirate attacks in the area, which Captain Phillips also allegedly ignored.
  • There were three pirate attacks instead of the two that were depicted in the movie, and the first two came within the same eighteen hour time span.
  • The movie shows the crew going through a security drill as the pirates approached, but the crew member alleges it was a fire drill, and that Phillips stubbornly wouldn’t allow them to stop it in the face of danger: “We said, ‘You want us to knock it off and go to our pirate stations?’ ” the crew member recalls. “And he goes, ‘Oh, no, no, no — you’ve got to do the lifeboats drill.’ This is how screwed up he is. These are drills we need to do once a year. Two boats with pirates and he doesn’t give a shit. That’s the kind of guy he is.”
  • At 3am, the pirates attacked again, as Phillips had left the stern light on and the bridge open. When they took the ship, the crew took it upon themselves to follow protocol and lock themselves below deck. They were on their own, and trapped downstairs in 130 degree heat for twelve hours.
  • Chief Engineer Mike Perry was apparently the real hero of the situation, leading the crew to safety and spearheading the capture of the lead pirate.
  • Not all the crew members cooperated with the movie, and those who did were paid amounts as small as $5,000 for their life rights.

Damn girl. Controversy.

(Image: Mark Wilson / Getty Images)

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  • Olivia Wilson

    E! is working out a reality show pitch for them as we speak.

  • Christopher Smith

    As a shipmaster for over 30 years (coincidentally with Maersk) I suspect this lawsuit is more the result of the actions of avaricious lawyers than Captain Phillips’ crew. My
    long experience of ship’s crew is that they are, almost without exception,
    fiercely loyal to the captain under who they serve. As for knowingly putting
    the ship in danger by steaming in a piracy area? Take a look at a map, people.
    How do you steam between ports A and B, both of which are in the high risk
    area, without transiting the area? For those of us almost continually in the
    Gulf of Aden High Risk Area, we are professional seafarers and that’s what we
    do – and sailors don’t normally cry. For more insight, read ‘The Megiddo
    Revenge’ – Amazon Books, Kobo & iTunes/Books

    • Alexis Rhiannon

      This is a really interesting perspective! Thanks for sharing!