'Captain Phillips' Spotlight Stolen by Rookie Actor With Amazing Backstory (VIDEO)

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Barkhad AbdiHave you seen the trailer for Captain Phillips, the pseudo-biographical film about the Somali pirate hijacking of a U.S.-flagged cargo ship? I'm guessing you have, because Columbia seems to have gone into marketing overdrive with this movie -- I think I've seen the preview at least six different times now, to the point where I can say Tom Hanks' New England-steeped dialogue along with him: "LISTEN UP! WE HAVE BEEN BOADED BY AHMED PIRATES!"

I'm interested in seeing this movie because it looks thrilling and I almost always like Tom Hanks, but also for Barkhad Abdi. Abdi plays the scarily skinny, super-intense lead pirate named Muse, and not only has he never acted in anything before in his life, it turns out he ad-libbed what's likely to be one of the most iconic lines from the film.

Abdi visited the Today Show recently to talk about how he came to star in this movie, and he seems like such a genuine guy I couldn't be happier that he's getting so much buzz for his role.

28-year-old Barkhad Abdi was born in Somalia, and spent time as a refugee in Yemen before emigrating to Minneapolis with his family in 1999. He was working as a limousine driver when he answered a casting call that ran on a local TV channel, and he was eventually chosen from more than 700 actors -- in part because of his uncommon appearance and charisma.

Captain Phillips director Paul Greengrass said of meeting Abdi,

He was able to be both menacing, but he also had a kind of humanity, too.

Greengrass made the unusual decision to keep Abdi from meeting Tom Hanks until their characters filmed the first scene together on set. Abdi says he was nervous, but worked hard to channel his character:

I had to come out with all I got. I used a lot of imaginations. I know where he's coming from, you know … I became the character. I tried to get to be that guy for that moment.

Not only did he pull it off, he actually ad-libbed that memorable line from the preview: "Look at me. I am the captain now."

Check out his interview with Matt Lauer:

Abdi, whose name is already being mentioned as a possible nominee for the best supporting actor Oscar, says he initially had some reservations about playing a Somali villain, but ultimately decided the opportunity was too great:

I'd rather take the chance. Rather than me blaming someone else later and saying, 'I could've done better than him.' I'd rather take it and see how far it goes. It was a big risk. He's a young man who's about my age, but he wasn't as lucky as me. I had parents that took me out so I could be a better person. He didn't have that chance. He was just a gangster who didn't have any other options. We know why he's a gangster. We can give him a reason.

What a fantastic story. I'm so excited for this guy, and I'm guessing it won't be much longer before more scripts are sent his way.

Are you planning to see Captain Phillips?

Image via Today

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