Despite opening to a strong $26 million this weekend, the Tom Hanks starrer Captain Phillips has found itself in hot water: The real crew from the Maersk Alabama that was taken by Somali pirates state that the film account of their hijacking was less based on a true story and far more an account of revisionist historical fiction.
According to eleven crew members who filed suit against Maersk and the Waterman Steamship Corporation in both Alabama and Texas for "willful, wanton and conscious disregard for their safety", they felt their lives were recklessly endangered by the real Captain Richard Phillips in the days leading up to their April 2009 hijacking. (Phillips is being used as a witness for the defense in both lawsuits.)
The crew members allege that Phillips ignored their pleas to sail further away from the Somali coast, which had already been home to 16 pirate attacks and eight hostage situations in the three weeks prior to their hijacking. He also flouted the anti-piracy plan distributed to all ships by the International Maritime Organization, that suggests crew cut the lights and power on ships and lock themselves below deck if pirates get too close.
Phillips has admitted to receiving at least seven emails while on board, advising ship captains about the increased piracy in the area and advising ships to move at least 600 miles off the coast. But Phillips kept his ship just 240 miles off the coast instead.
The crew member who spoke to the New York Post goes on to say that the ship was actually attacked three times, rather than the two attacks depicted in the film. When the ship narrowly avoided the first attack, Phillips went back to sailing his coastal hugging route, in an effort to make it to their destination quicker. When the final attack happened, Phillips had no plan, and the crew locked themselves below deck for 12 hours in 130 degree heat. They were then painted in the film as lazy layabouts.
Chief Engineer Mike Perry, who is seen briefly in the film taking a Somali pirate hostage, corroborates the anonymous crew members claims, and claims that the scene where Phillips is taken hostage is completely fabricated. The movie version (SPOILER ALERT!) involves Phillips giving himself up for the sake of the ship, while Perry maintains that in actuality, after he took the Somali pirate hostage, the pirates reneged on their deal to trade Phillips for their own pirate and simply took off with both men—no self-sacrificing heroics actually ensued.
Some of the crew did not cooperate with Sony's retelling of the events, and those who did were paid a paltry $5,000 for their life rights and forced to sign non-disclosure agreements. And here you thought all the looting and pillaging was just onboard.
Ed. Note: The original article stated that there were two attacks in real life, and only one depicted on screen. In reality, there were three attacks during the real hijack, and only two depicted on screen. It has been corrected in the article.