Paul Greengrass’ “Captain Phillips” Starring Tom Hanks to Open NYFF51


Tom Hanks and Barkhad Abdi in Paul Greengrass' Captain Phillips. Photo: Jasin Boland

The World Premiere of Paul Greengrass' anticipated new film Captain Phillips will screen as the Opening Night Gala at the 51st New York Film Festival. Starring two-time Academy Award winner and 2009 Film Society of Lincoln Center Chaplin Award honoree Tom Hanks in the title role, the film recounts the true story of the 2009 hijacking of the U.S. container ship Maersk Alabama by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean. The feature will usher in the annual NYFF, which takes place September 27 – October 13.

The screening will mark Greengrass' return to the New York Film Festival a decade after debuting his film Bloody Sunday at the 40th NYFF in 2002. Described as a "pulse-pounding thriller" by organizers, the film is based on the book A Captain's Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs and Dangeroud Days at Sea by Captain Richard Phillips and Stephan Talty, from a screenplay by Billy Ray. In April 2009, Somali pirates seized the ship on the high seas 240 nautical miles off the coast of the Horn of Africa. Maersk Alabama had 17,000 metric tons of cargo and was bound for Mombassa, Kenya. The film plays out as a tense game of cat and mouse. The crew captures one pirate, while the Somalis capture Captain Phillips. The crew attempts to exchange their captive for Phillips, but the pirates takes the captain aboard a life boat, where the standoff enters a more dangerous phase with the U.S. Navy eventually trailing the small boat.

"Captain Phillips is a riveting experience," said NYFF Director of Programming and Selection Committee Chair Kent Jones about the festival opener. "At this point in his working life, Paul Greengrass has become a master of immersive reality-based narratives set along geopolitical fault lines – in this case, the 2009 seizure of the Maersk Alabama cargo ship by four Somali pirates. I’m excited that this tough, tense, real-life thriller, capped by the remarkable performances of Tom Hanks and four brilliant first-time Somali actors (Barkhad Abdi, Faysal Ahmed, Barkhad Abdirahman and Mahat M. Ali), is opening the 51st edition of the festival."

"I think Tom is absolutely fantastic in this film," Paul Greengrass told FilmLinc Daily in an interview ahead of today's announcement. "He's right there in some of the best films he's done and it's Tom Hanks doing what he does best. He gives an incredibly powerful, brilliant, performance about an ordinary man facing the most intense peril. A huge appeal for me with this project was working with Tom and we just hit it off. He's just such a brilliant actor and collaborator."

The 17-day New York Film Festival highlights the best in world cinema, featuring top films from celebrated filmmakers as well as fresh new talent. The selection committee, chaired by Jones, also includes: Dennis Lim, Film Society Director of Cinematheque Programming; Gavin Smith, Editor-in-Chief, Film Comment; Amy Taubin, Contributing Editor, Film Comment and Sight and Sound; and Marian Masone, Film Society Associate Director of Programming.

The film is produced by Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, and Michael De Luca. The Sony Pictures release is due in theaters October 11.


Faysal Ahmed, Barkhad Abdi, Barkhad Abdirahman, Mahat Ali in Captain Phillips. Photo: Jasin Boland

Oscar winner Life Of Pi by Ang Lee opened last year's 50th edition of the New York Film Festival, while Roman Polanski's Carnage opened the 2011 event. David Fincher's multiple Oscar nominee The Social Network launched the 2010 edition of the festival.

The 17-day New York Film Festival highlights the best in world cinema, featuring top films from celebrated filmmakers as well as fresh new talent. The selection committee, chaired by Jones also includes: Dennis Lim, FSLC Director of Cinematheque Programming; Gavin Smith, Editor-in-Chief, Film Comment; Amy Taubin, Contributing Editor, Film Comment and Sight and Sound; and Marian Masone, FSLC Associate Director of Programming.

Subscription Packages and VIP Passes for the New York Film Festival are on sale now to Film Society Members. General Public tickets will go on sale September 8 after a Member pre-sale period. For more information about becoming a Film Society Member, click here.

To sign up for email updates about the 51st New York Film Festival, click here.


Mahat Ali, Tom Hanks, and Faysal Ahmed in Captain Phillips. Photo: Jasin Boland

Past New York Film Festival Opening Night Films:

1963 The Exterminating Angel (Luis Buñuel, Mexico)
1964  Hamlet (Grigori Kozintsev, USSR)
1965  Alphaville (Jean-Luc Godard, France)
1966  Loves of a Blonde (Milos Forman, Czechoslovakia)
1967  The Battle of Algiers (Gillo Pontecorvo, Italy/Algeria)
1968  Capricious Summer (Jiri Menzel, Czechoslovakia)
1969  Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (Paul Mazursky, US)
1970  The Wild Child (François Truffaut, France)
1971  The Debut (Gleb Panfilov, Soviet Union)
1972  Chloe in the Afternoon (Eric Rohmer, France)
1973  Day for Night (François Truffaut, France)
1974  Don't Cry With Your Mouth Full (Pascal Thomas, France)
1975  Conversation Piece (Luchino Visconti, Italy)
1976  Small Change (François Truffaut, France)
1977  One Sings, The Other Doesn't (Agnès Varda, France)
1978  A Wedding (Robert Altman, US)
1979  Luna (Bernardo Bertolucci, Italy/US)
1980  Melvin and Howard (Jonathan Demme, US)
1981 Chariots of Fire (Hugh Hudson, UK)
1982  Veronika Voss (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, West Germany)
1983  The Big Chill (Lawrence Kasdan, US)
1984 Country (Richard Pearce, US)
1985 Ran (Akira Kurosawa, Japan)
1986 Down By Law (Jim Jarmusch, US)
1987  Dark Eyes (Nikita Mikhalkov, Soviet Union)
1988  Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (Pedro Almodóvar, Spain)
1989  Too Beautiful For You (Bertrand Blier, France)
1990 Miller's Crossing (Joel Coen, US)
1991  The Double Life of Veronique (Krysztof Kieslowski, Poland/France)
1992  Olivier Olivier (Agnieszka Holland, France)
1993  Short Cuts (Robert Altman, US)
1994  Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino, US)
1995 Shanghai Triad (Zhang Yimou, China)
1996  Secrets & Lies (Mike Leigh, UK)
1997 The Ice Storm (Ang Lee, US)
1998 Celebrity (Woody Allen, US)
1999 All About My Mother (Pedro Almodóvar, Spain)
2000 Dancer in the Dark (Lars von Trier, Denmark)
2001 Va Savoir (Jacques Rivette, France)
2002 About Schmidt (Alexander Payne, US)
2003 Mystic River (Clint Eastwood, US)
2004 Look At Me (Agnès Jaoui, France)
2005 Good Night, and Good Luck. (George Clooney, US)
2006 The Queen (Stephen Frears, UK)
2007 The Darjeeling Limited (Wes Anderson, US)
2008 The Class (Laurent Cantet, France)
2009 Wild Grass (Alain Resnais, France)
2010 The Social Network (David Fincher, US)
2011 Carnage (Roman Polanski, France/Poland)
2012 Life of Pi (Ang Lee, US)

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Paul Greengrass Talks “Captain Phillips,” Tom Hanks, and Hollywood image

Paul Greengrass Talks “Captain Phillips,” Tom Hanks, and Hollywood

Ahead of today's exciting announcement that Paul Greengrass' Captain Phillips will open the 51st New York Film Festival, the celebrated filmmaker chatted with FilmLinc Daily about his latest film, which stars two-time Academy Award winner and 2009 Film Society Chaplin Award honoree Tom Hanks.

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